Confessions of a Perfectionist2
Unrealistic expectations…fear of failure…a hyper-critical attitude. That’s the life of a perfectionist. How do I know? I am one. I know what it’s like to feel disappointment and anger over the smallest mishaps. It’s strange how I can go from “all in” to “just forget it” over things most other people don’t even notice.
Your spouse doesn’t say “I love you” as often as you’d like, so you’re ready to quit the marriage. Your boss comes in late every once in a while so you think he should be fired. You beat yourself up over the smallest things. You justify your actions because you think you’re just as hard on yourself! Does this sound familiar?
My chase for perfection often prevents me from achieving success. I become my own worst enemy as I mentally develop a case to prove why I shouldn’t win.
That behavior affects all areas of life, but today, let’s look as how perfectionism affects our relationship with God. My upbringing encouraged a perfectionist approach to life. We saw it as a gift! I’m pretty sure the first scripture I memorized was,
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
– Matthew 5:48 (NIV)
The self-righteousness I felt when I did “right” was delightful! It was a high like none other. But when I did something wrong, the depths of discouragement would drive me into a deep funk. I was overcome with an “I can’t ever do anything right” attitude which left me feeling disqualified.
My Christian life became a cycle of good behavior accompanied by self-righteousness, followed by bad behavior accompanied by disappointment and a sense of disqualification.
When a team plays a “perfect” game it means they didn’t make any mistakes. When a musician plays a piece of music without error, they performed perfectly.
That was my definition of "perfection." I thought that to be a follower of Jesus, I had to be completely free from mistakes and sin…just like God! I held that belief until I heard a pastor explain the Greek word translated perfect in our Bibles. It’s the word telios, and it has nothing to do with living a sin- or mistake-free life!
He explained how the word “perfect” wasn’t an accurate translation. A better term would be complete. I didn’t believe him at first! I thought “How could that be?! Is that some kind of heresy?” So I looked it up …and he was right! Telios means to bring something to its fullest state.
Jesus’ teaching had nothing to do with living a mistake-free life. It had nothing to do with a self-righteous standard of perfectionism. Instead, he was extending an invitation to the rich and satisfying life God has designed for me!
He invites you into that full life today. Don’t get hung up on your mistakes, your failure you’re your disappointments. Let Jesus take care of that…he’s already paid for it through his sacrifice on the cross. As John wrote:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
– 1 John 1:9 (NIV)
Let’s focus on the life God wants to complete in us! His grace is sufficient and his love is secure.
I’m convinced that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it through to completion on the day of Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 1:6 (GWT)