Vanquishing perfectionism

POST OVERVIEW. A post about the sin of perfectionism and a strategy for vanquishing it and removing it from your life.

I must have been under the burden of perfectionism long before I realized it, but that seems to usually be the case with these types of sins. The attitudes of my parents, particularly my father’s demands for performance, and my own personality definitely predisposed me to perfectionism, and it is likely that I had been a perfectionist for decades before I finally recognized my disease when I was in my forties.

But regardless of the reasons, I finally realized that I was a victim of perfectionism. My demand for perfect performance manifested itself in my being critical of the efforts, the performance, and the accomplishments of others, and in my being especially hard on myself for constantly falling short of the elusive “perfect” outcomes that I imagined for myself.

DEFINITION. I should try to define what I mean by “perfectionism.” This is the tendency to view all outcomes as binary, as either perfection or failure. All performance is to be evaluated on that absolute scale, as either perfect or literally as a failure. In extreme cases, even excellence is unacceptable since the goal was perfection.

This demon of perfectionism, this poison root, produces evil fruit.

  • There is constant sense of discontent and disappointment because NOTHING ever meets the requirement of perfection.
  • Indecision and second-guessing are produced because there is no choice without problems and there is no perfect alternative.
  • A tendency to judge everything and compare all people and all actions and all performance against an imaginary “perfect” ideal and then to criticize when the ideal is not achieved.
  • Seeing people’s faults and shortcomings, rather than seeing their strengths and their good qualities.

The purpose of this article is to help those who are perfectionists, like me, to develop a strategy for getting free of this sin and for reaching that place where grace replaces law in how you view your own performance and the performance of others.

ADMIT AND CONFESS. The first step is to recognize that you are a perfectionist and to confess that this is a sinful behavior. Perfectionism assumes that I am capable of perfect performance and that all I need to do to achieve perfection is work harder. Thus perfectionism is works based and performance based and denies my fallenness and denies my need for a perfect God who will have mercy on my sin and my failure. So, confession of perfectionism must mark the first step of the deliverance strategy. Confess your sin to God (Psalm 32:5), but also confess your sin to others (James 5:16). Just taking this first step will begin to loosen perfectionism’s grip and will also bring others into the battle against it.

STRATEGY FOR REPENTANCE. Battling perfectionism requires a two-pronged approach of earnest repenting prayer for deliverance coupled with an aggressive action plan. Prayer is necessary for making the necessary changes. Any serious strategy must involve crying out to God for His help. But the perfectionist must also resolve to act. You must change your behavior so that the enemy will be defeated.

SUGGESTED PRAYER. “O God, I long to be delivered from this evil trait. Holy Spirit, I ask You to change me and to change my mind, to transform me so that this characteristic of perfectionism and its devastating effects are removed from my life.” (Verses to pray through: Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 10:5; Eph. 4:22-24, 29, 32; remember Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:23; Galatians 2:21)

ACTION PLAN. Here are some suggested steps for an action plan.

  • Develop the habit of thanking God often. Wake up every day thanking God.
  • Make it a rule to never criticize other people’s efforts. Instead, give other people compliments. Never, ever ridicule others!
  • Never speak with cynicism or sarcasm (Eph. 4:29).
  • Stop grumbling and complaining (Phil. 2:14).
  • Before you begin to judge someone’s effort, remember that all God requires of His people is their best effort.
  • When tempted to judge others, remember Romans 14:4 – “Who are you to judge the servant of another?” This verse is quite profound. Think about it.
  • Strive to be kind and tender-hearted to other people (Eph. 4:32). This world has enough pain without me adding to it with my unwarranted demands for perfection.
  • Encourage all sincere effort, regardless of the results.
  • Before you begin some project or task, have clearly defined, realistic expectations of outcomes. “Clearly defined” because this provides a goal for the effort and prevents an open-ended comparison with some vague “perfection;” “realistic” because a realistic expectation can often be achieved.
  • Celebrate and praise all accomplishment.
  • This world is fallen and only Jesus Christ is perfect. Accept this as an undeniable, theological fact and live like this is a fact.
  • God required perfection of His Son, Jesus Christ, so that He could be a perfect sinless sacrifice for sinners. Because Jesus Christ is perfect, I don’t need to be and neither does anyone else.
  • See people as amazing, complex creations of God who need to know the savior. My mission is to reflect Christ so that others can know Him, not to judge others until they meet my performance criteria.
  • Determine to face challenges with my best efforts and with fervent prayer and trust the Lord for the outcome. He is sovereign over all things.

With this strategy of prayer and action, and with perseverance (Romans 15:4-5; Hebrews 12:1), the sharp sin of perfectionism may be vanquished and removed from your life.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 3/24/2023                   #636

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