Wednesday, 25 May 2011


There’s a Faith Jam going on today over at Bonnie’s blog on perfectionism.

Perfectionism. What an ugly word.
The world worships it.
We Christians must renounce it.

Perfectionism means I must ALWAYS be right, ALWAYS be perfect.
My life must reflect perfection or it loses worth.
My work must be completely fulfilling; my life full of marvellous friends and adoring relations; my home spotless and beautifully decorated and my menus delicious and apparently effortlessly planned; my appearance flawless.

I cannot allow any imperfection, defect or fault to exist in my life.

So career moves must ALWAYS be ideal: if they are not, my life is ruined.
Relational problems are always the other person’s fault, never mine.
Anything not quite up to ‘magazine standard’ in my home is explained away as a temporary glitch as I plan the next home move or redecorating project.
Any flaws in hair, clothes or make-up will be quickly rectified.

I am perfect.

Of course, I won’t say I am. I will excuse any sense of stress or appearance of becoming – oh, ever so slightly of course – uptight with a sweet little smile and the explanation: “I am a perfectionist, you know,” as I flutter my eyelashes in demure modesty.

This is wrong.

Perfectionism DEMANDS perfection. It cannot accept ‘pretty good’ or ‘almost there’ – it must have EVERYTHING. It is all about ME and ignores others. It depletes others of energy, burdening them with the demand that they recognise how wonderful I am – or would be, if circumstances/other people had not ‘done something’ to cause me to be slightly less than completely marvellous.

Perfectionism is an ugly word. We must see it for what it is, and renounce it. Admitting mistakes and failure is the open door to true spiritual growth.

Psalm 51:16-18 (The Message) says
Going through the motions doesn't please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you.
   I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered.
   Heart-shattered lives ready for love don't for a moment escape God's notice. 
Or, in the NIV:
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

We need to be broken. We need to fail. We need to make mistakes. We need NOT to be perfect.

PS Attaining perfection is indeed to work towards becoming all we are meant to be, while acknowledging that we are not yet there...we mess up.
Understanding this is complicated, even paradoxical. I should probably have started with the dictionary definition of perfect: complete, not deficient, faultless.  PERFECTIONISM is the UNCOMPROMISING pursuit of excellence: to me, perfectionism does not allow for mistakes.  The repercussions of perfectionism on our relationships with others – family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, God – are countless. I aim to improve, I work towards becoming better, but it is only Jesus who can make me truly perfect. 

A kind friend has sent  this link to John Wesley's sermon on being perfect...


  1. Through our weaknesses, He is strong. Great post!

  2. Perfectionism is for suckers!

    So sit back, relax, and enjoy second place in the knowledge that the winner loves you as you are...

    And anyway... you ain't finished yet!

  3. You make an important point--how the tension between wanting to live right and do better often gets gobbled up by the other extreme, an obsessive need to be perfect. I'm so glad that Jesus has that all figured out. Now if I could only rest in that! Thanks for your encouraging thoughts, friend!