I used to proudly label myself as a perfectionist. I was proud because I set high standards for myself and for others. Settling for second best was not an option. I had to do my absolute best.
Psychologist say perfectionism is a characteter trait in which the person strives for flawlessness; setting extremely high standards which are accompanied by extremely criticial evaluations of the self and others.
On the surface, what's wrong with having high standards? Having high standards have served me well in some areas of my life. In my business my clients expect me to be highly critical of their problems so I can find the best solutions.
However, there is a dark side to perfectionism. Being a perfectionist is like being a slave to a master that is never satisfied. A master that never says anything positive to you or about you. A master that doesn't appreciate you. A master that will never say good job or well done.
Can you imagine working for a boss like that? For those of us who stuggle with perfectionism, this is our reality...except usually the boss is spelled M-E (me). Perfectionist only impose the best and therefore the highest standards on themselves.
As a Chrisitian, I spent many years erroroneously thinking that if I was hard on myself I could guarantee that I wouldn't ever fall, mess up, or do wrong....which is the only way to please the God I love. Imagine the magnitude of my disappointment, guilt, and condemnation when I did error. Of course most perfectionist place blame for failure on themselves instead of on others.
So here I am... a Christian trying very hard to earn the love and blessings of God by doing good, only to be disappointed time and time again because I couldn't be flawless in both thought and behavior. I would feel the lowest of the low, extend myself no grace, nor allow myself to accept the grace of God. Try selling that kind of Chrisitianity to an unbeliever!
Recently I came across a commentary and verse that has set really set me free...once and for all. In her book Your Beautiful Purpose, Susie Larson references a commentary by Warren Wiersbe on 1 John 3:19-20
"No Christian should treat sin lightly, but no Christian should be harder on himself than God is. There is a morbid kind of self-examination and self-condemnation this is not spiritual"
Over the years, I have slowly let God release me from the bondage of perfectionism but this quote completed this release as I saw Romans 5:8 unlike before.
Roman 5: 8 But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us
In other words, Christ died for the flawed, messed up, sinful, manipulative, insecure, and emtionally unstable me...whom he loved before any of that changed! In my walk with Christ, I have overcome these character flaws through reading and studying the scriptures, but that isn't the person Christ died for.
I remember Weight Watchers had a commercial out about being an "after". Basically, your "before" was the overweight person, and the "after" was the new person you became after you lost your weight. So let me really stretch this metaphor....
In our human minds we think, "who could possible want or love my "before", surely my "after" is more pleasing.". But God knew us in our "before", loved us in our "before", and sent Christ to die for our "before" to that we could have an "after". I thought through perfectionism, I could earn God's love and acceptance. But perfectionism will never lead to a satisfying "after".
Perfectionism forces you to live in the constant state of morbid self-examination and self-condemnation that is bondage. God wants us to free to freely give and freely receive peace. I pray you find that peace even if it takes years (like it did for me).
Father, thank you for the freedom that is found in you. I pray for those who struggle with perfectionism. Help them first realize it isn't their friend, then show them how to find acceptance and safety in your will and your way.Amen