A Failing Perfectionist

I wouldn’t call myself a total perfectionist, but when it comes to certain things in life, I definitely strive to be pretty close to perfect. Namely, in academics.

I feel like I’ve relaxed a bit since coming to college, but that’s not to say that my tendencies from high school to stress over even the tiniest of details of a homework assignment and to be upset if I don’t get an A in a class are gone completely. Honestly, this perfectionism makes my life so much more stressful, and I’m full of worries about what’s to come and if I prepared well enough for it.

In short, I’m a mess.

I’m a mess because no matter how much I want to be perfect in my schoolwork, I cannot. 

Let me repeat that again, but generalized. Perfectionists have a tendency to let our unreasonable desire to be perfect cause us unnecessary stress because no matter how much we strive to be perfect, we will inevitably fall short. 

That goes for those like me who want to be perfect in their schoolwork, to those who want to be the perfect role model (also me), to those who want to be the best at their job, to those who want to be perfect in just about everything they do.

Here’s the deal, we’re not perfect beings. Romans 3:23 tells us that “everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (NLT). As unpleasant as that may sound, that’s fact. We’re sinning, imperfect beings who can never be perfect on our own.

But for all you perfectionists out there, there is hope. The Gospel says that Jesus came down to earth and died for our sins, that we may have eternal life with him if we believe. He has sent the Holy Spirit to us to start creating us believers anew.

The Holy Spirit is making us perfect. 

Isn’t that awesome?!

We can never hope to achieve perfection on our own, but if we rely on the Holy Spirit and let Him lead us and shape us and mold us, we will slowly but surely become more like our perfect Father in heaven. And once we get to heaven, we will be perfect and without sin.

So, all that to say, perfectionism in and of itself, I believe, is not an entirely bad desire to have.

After all, it can point to our creation. Genesis 1 says that everything God created was “good.” God is perfect, and He made man in His image, meaning that man started off as perfect. It was only when sin entered the world that we were made imperfect.

Secondly, if we didn’t have a desire to be better or a desire to be perfect, why would we need the Holy Spirit? The very basis of Christianity is this: We are imperfect sinners, and we realize this, but Jesus Christ has covered the cost and through the Holy Spirit we will be made more and more like Him through this lifetime.

Christianity is all about imperfect beings being restored to perfection by our perfect Creator. 

Now, that’s certainly just one take at the Gospel, and there are many other aspects to it, but I say that to illustrate the point that perfectionism, defined as a desire to constantly be better and do better, in and of itself isn’t bad. It is only when we look to ourselves to be perfect that we falter. Only God can make us perfect.

So don’t shun your perfectionist tendencies completely, just turn them over to the God who is perfect. Instead of relying on yourself to become perfect, rely on God. That’s the only way our efforts will not be in vain.

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