Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? ~ Galatians 3:3
If any church struggled with perfectionism it was the churches of Galatia. Paul became very concerned about the false teachings that added works as a requirement for salvation. It was no longer a gospel by grace through faith, but one dominated by works!
Perfectionism is at the root of a works-based faith. It is something we also struggle with in our culture today. I’m definitely a recovering perfectionist!
Would those closest to you describe you as a perfectionist?
Perfectionism is the mental habit of formulating ideal standards that we demand ourselves to meet in order to prove to ourselves, to others, and to God our worth.
It is a very self-focused way of life. Everything rises and falls on how well I perform by my own human efforts. Sometimes it is the media or the opinions of others, or our own warped thinking that creates these paralyzing, unrealistic standards.
It is true that God wants us to pursue excellence, but He never asked us to be a perfectionist.
Pat Berg makes some keen observations contrasting between being a perfectionist verses a pursuer of biblical excellence:
– Sets impossible goals of perfection; must come out the winner.
– Motivated to do well by fear of failure.
– Meditates on his failures or mistakes and discounts the successes.
– Takes criticism personally and defends himself.
– Thinks his value as a person depends on his performance.
– Views life as a miserable rat race; dreads the future.
– Gets depressed when he fails.
– Compares himself with others (leads to pride or discouragement).
As psychologist, Dr. David Burns says, “Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up on your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward in your life.”
– Sets a goal to faithfully give his best effort; leaves the results to God (James 4:13-16).
– Motivated to do his best by gratitude to God (Romans 12:1).
– Learns from his mistakes, forgets them, and concentrates on the future (Philippians 3:13-14).
– Realizes he can improve from criticism and learns from it (Proverbs 9:8-9).
– Realizes that his value was ascribed to him by God and that he could never earn it nor ever lose it (Ephesians 1:6-7).
– Looks forward to future challenges, trusting God to help him do well (Proverbs 31:25 – Literally “smiles at the future”).
– Sees past his failures to how God can use it in his life to make him more Christlike and chooses to “hope in God” (Psalms 42,5,11; Hebrews 12:11; James 1:2-3).
– Compares himself with the standard God has for him as revealed in the Bible (2 Corinthians 10:12-13).