Ever tried to be perfect? Are you tempted to present yourself in ways that are not exactly true to who you are? Is it hard for you to let others know you messed up?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions then you know about the angst of trying to be perfect.
There is a level of self-deception working in us when we seek to put forth a better version of ourselves than the real person we know ourselves to be. Here are a few of the tendencies of a person who strives to be perfect:
Rather than finding acceptance in Christ, we hope others will approve of us for our accomplishments, such as our financial status, well-performing children, good looks, or some other idol erected in our lives, engineered to impress others.
The damnable reality is that perfectionistic thinking begins a process of hardening the conscience, which distances us from the grace of God and the power of the cross that can change us.
Whenever we seek to “pull the wool over someone’s eyes,” there is a level of deceit going on. We are not being true to ourselves or to others whom we want to impress.
Lack of Integrity
Our character becomes tarnished by this unsavory loyalty to ourselves. A person like this cannot be ultimately trusted if they are willing to deceive others. There is a character issue that creates disharmony in relationships.
The perfectionist will always be insecure around those from whom they crave most favored status. Their confidence is only as strong as their current approval rating.
One of the side-effects for the striving perfectionist is a desire to find relief from the stress, anxiety, and torment of their illusionary pursuit. It is not unusual for them to find stress release through secret sins such as sexual lusts, overeating, or some other self-indulgent craving.
What Does It All Mean?
The bottom line is that the wannabe perfectionist is unwilling to totally trust God. The great sadness is the commentary they are making about the Gospel. That is, they are saying that God’s acceptance through the finished work of His Son is not good enough. They need a little more approval—Jesus plus others equals everything.
The wannabe perfectionist and God are in a tug-o-war. God is saying:
I fully forgive you for all of your past, present, and future sins, plus I give you my Son’s perfect righteousness. I do not see you as a sinner, but as a righteous child.
The perfectionist says:
I intellectually sign-off on what you are saying, Lord, but it is still important to me that others think a certain way about me. In order to satisfy this craving, I have to control certain situations. I cannot let them know the real me. Though You know the real me and I’m somewhat okay with that, I’d really prefer they not know the whole truth about me. Though I accept Your righteousness, I need to promote my own perfection just in case people are not okay with what they see.
The perfectionist needs to repent. However, that creates a problem because he craves the approval for others. In order for him to fully repent, he will have to let others know that he is not perfect. This is near-impossible for the proud perfectionist.
Here are two things I recommend:
First, he needs to find someone he can trust, who is competent enough, and willing enough to walk him through the illusion of perfectionism. He will have to spill the beans. This will be hard for him because he craves approval and fears anything that smacks of criticism.
Second, the perfectionist has to come to terms with the Gospel. The Gospel means many things, but there is one thing for certain it means: you are perfectly perfect in Christ.
There is no amount of work you can do to make yourself more acceptable to God. This truth of the Gospel must be his truth. He must own it today and every day from this point forward, while repenting of this illusionary notion that he needs approval from others.
If You Know a Perfectionist
If you know a perfectionist, you must humbly love, care, and serve them because they are in bondage to the gods of approval, respect, honor, significance, and acceptance.
You must know and understand their sinful tendencies and be able to come alongside them in a non-condemnatory way. They do not fully trust God at this point. Therefore, they need to lean on your faith as you show them the freedom, contentment, and rest found in the Gospel.
You can teach them to pray this way:
I am not perfect. I need a perfect Savior. Therefore, I have accepted Him. I have been born again by the power of the Gospel. Today I am positioned in Christ and when you see me, you see your Son.
Father, I pray you will break the bondage that has ensnared by soul. It haunts me and teaches me that I need to perform for others in order to be accepted by others.
I can never fully serve others while needing others at the same time. I want to fully serve and not be controlled by what I think their opinions of me are.
There are certain people and situations in my life where I want to impress or be impressive. When I do this, the work of the Savior in me is obscured.
Help me to rest in the singular truth that I am perfect in Him and I do not need to act like a circus animal performing for peanuts. Make it real to me, Father. Change me from the inside out.
Transform me by the power of the Gospel. May that which saved me also sanctify me. Help me to have full satisfaction in you alone. Thank you. Amen!
Join the Conversation
Many of us can struggle with “perfectionism.” In your life and in your ministry, which principles from today’s post most stand out? Why? How can you apply them?