Monday, 3 August 2015

Shaking the hold of perfectionism

I used to see perfectionism as something of a virtue. It was one of those qualities you'd admit with a wry smile and a quiet chuckle. It wasn't a bad thing per se. Sure it could be a little exasperating for people around you at times, and that was unfortunate, but it was just part of you. You couldn't help it, right? 

We should come with a warning label. Seriously.

In the past I would meet such admissions from my fellow perfectionists with that same wry smile. But more recently I have responded with a sad expression and a shake of the head. Whether or not I actually say it aloud I have come to the stunning conclusion, by the grace of God, that perfectionism is just no good for you. 

In fact it's toxic. As toxic as any other sin. 

A lot of Christians around the blogosphere write about perfectionism. I was surprised by this as my perfectionism had seemed unique. Turns out I was wrong... Again. 

But I suppose that feeling of uniqueness is what happens when something becomes, or seems to become, part of you and your personality. It is so ingrained that you can't imagine life without it. It's unique, it's special, it's ME. 

So why would I throw a piece of myself away? 

That bring me back to my original point about perfectionism being rooted in sin. The easiest way to see it is the standards we set for ourselves, and more importantly why we set them so high. 

We believe that our lives must be perfect. We must achieve the perfect grades, be the perfect friend, family member or romantic partner. Getting something "wrong" is a disaster, a blemish upon our record. And just to clarify "wrong" is defined as anything less than perfection.

Our value and self-worth lies in getting everything right (perfect) and we will bend ourselves over backwards to achieve this. Take the example of when I was determined to get both of my friends to church, even though dad had told me we could only take one. I had to be a "good" friend and couldn't stand to be seen as anything less than exceptional. 

In all of this you can see I'm something of a silly goose but that whole toxic sin part may not be obvious so I'll make it clear: In seeking perfection I am living in rebellion against God. I am embracing the lie that I that I can save myself. Afterall all I had to was get everything "right." Jesus is great and all but I can do this on my own, thanks all the same. The consequence of this is that I am telling God "your love and your salvation is not enough." Rejecting God and His truth is living in rebellion

Perfectionism has had a hold on me for a long time. It's hard to let go. But I remember those moments of brokeness before God where I've told Him how much I hate it, that I despise it and curse it as sin. God hates our sin, but He loves us. It may sound odd but I want to hate my sin more than I want to hold onto it. 

So how am I shaking the hold of perfectionism? By choosing to hate it and love God and His way more. His way is the narrow path, where I must daily crucify my flesh and choose to follow Him. At this point putting to death perfectionism feels like I'm killing part of myself but even then... I don't want it anymore.

Photo credit:
1. Image by geralt. Public domain. 
2. Image by Anthony Will photos. Used under CC license
3. Image by benhewittcreative. Used under CC license
4. Image by jill111. Public domain.