Defining Perfectionism

Perfect means complete or to complete thoroughly. Perfection is the state of being entirely without fault. A perfectionist is a person who is displeased by anything that does not meet very high standards. Finally, perfectionism is a personal standard, attitude, or philosophy that demands perfection and rejects anything else.

The following signs can help clarify perfectionism:

  1. All or nothing thinking
  2. A critical eye that is worse on self than others
  3. Pushing toward goals from fear of not reaching then
  4. Having unrealistic standards
  5. Focus on results instead of the process
  6. Depressed by unmet goals
  7. Consumed with fear of failure
  8. Often procrastinates
  9. Defensive
  10. Has low self-esteem

Perfectionism creates a focus on self, and many people find this mindset difficult to shake. Certainly, perfectionism presents a widespread challenge with many looking for a path to freedom from its dictatorship.

The Impact of Culture

Probably the best example of how our culture impacts perfection lies in the beauty industry. Products to make us perfect and then more products that made the old perfect no longer good enough. This is just one example. There are many others in advertising, education, and even religion.

Without a doubt, our culture pushes us to the extremes telling us to be perfect but at the same time keeping it well out of our reach. We are set up for failure. Unfortunately, our own expectations plus the mixed message of our culture bring us only to frustration. Perfection remains painfully illusive.

Good Enough

At the other end of the spectrum are those with a “good enough” approach. They don’t even try because they know that perfection is impossible. So, instead of doing their best, they do enough to get by. The danger of this, though, is becoming lukewarm.

“So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot or cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16)

Doesn’t sound like achieving good enough really works well either.

God is a Perfectionist

Both approaches – perfectionism and good enough – focus on our own efforts, and that’s not what God had in mind when he told us to be perfect.

“Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

God is a perfectionist, but He can be because he is perfect. At the same time, God provides a way for us to become perfect. Our culture and our own efforts do not.

Pursuing Perfection, Part II looks at the only way to obtain perfection.