I recently admitted to myself that I struggle with perfectionism.
Peer into my life and you’ll realise it’s highly imperfect. But I guess that isn’t the point. Perfectionism is in the straining towards an ideal standard in your head – not the (highly mythical) achieving of it. I believe that those wise people who’ve mastered ‘imperfectionism’ are the ones who’ve discovered that ‘good enough’ is much, much more liberating…
I think part of my struggle comes from the deeply embedded idea that if I succeed in doing everything just right, I’ll be acceptable and loved by everyone. The trouble, I find, lies in the confusion surrounding what’s actually ‘right’ (and in whose opinion anyway?)…
It’s irrational, but I think such striving simply reflects a desire we all have to prove our own worth, and to be loved for it. Unconditionally.
You’d think that when I accepted just how much God loves me and has forgiven me I would’ve given up the need to prove myself. But it’s in my nature to keep trying to earn his favour – as if it was about me, and my ability to impress him. I realise though that by saying I’m not good enough, I’m essentially saying he’s not good enough (to quote a wise friend).
When such tendencies rear themselves, it’s helpful to remind myself of the following truths:
* 1. Only God is truly perfect, and he alone can make me more like him.
Bill Gaultiere wrote: “God alone is perfect and his perfection is manifested in Jesus Christ. To receive Christ into our life is to receive his perfection so that God accepts us as righteous because of Christ. [We experience] a process of being perfected by God’s power as we trust in the Lord Jesus and train ourselves to grow in godliness. Being perfected in the character of Christ is different than what is ordinarily meant by perfectionism. Perfectionism is a manifestation of anxiety, straining to be ideal or to have an ideal experience of some kind.”
“As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless.” (Psalm 18:30)
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)
* 2. I am acceptable not because of what I’ve done (or am trying to do), but what he’s done.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)
* 3. True strength and power comes on us when we admit our weaknesses and our complete need for God.
“‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
* 4. Knowing just how much I am loved and redeemed by the God of the universe helps dispel the fears and anxieties which keep the focus on me, and my achievements.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
God, please make me perfect in your love – not my own human striving…