Perfectionists have a pride problem. Does this statement shock you? This post, originally titled “Perfectionism Is Pride,” appeared first here on Biblical Counselor Julie Glanschow’s blog and is used with permission.
Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Galatians 3:3, ESV
Perfectionists Are Fearful
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. 1 John 2:1–3, ESV
Perfectionists Deal with Anger
Perfectionists are frequently angry. You do not like to make a mistake. Even when you know that you don’t know what you are doing, and by all rights shouldn’t know what you are doing, you become angry at yourself for making errors.
Perfectionists also have a hard time with people who don’t appear to care about being perfect. They are judgmental and self-righteous, comparing others to themselves on every possible level, and usually find other people to be lacking.
This is one tough way to live! We are commanded to be holy, which implies perfection, but we are not commanded to be perfect. In fact, as sinful beings we cannot be perfect in this life.
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:1–3, ESV
There is nothing wrong with wanting to do a good job or with wanting to excel at something. It is even alright to want to do an excellent or superior job! However, constantly having to be the best is nothing more than pride. When being the best causes me to sin in my anger, it is not a righteous goal any longer. When wanting to be better than others means I tear them down, it is sinful.
And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.” Luke 16:15, ESV
Hope for Perfectionists
To get a handle on this life-dominating sin, you must be willing to be honest with yourself and evaluate your actions and most of all your heart through the grid of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
You must ask yourself some tough questions to get to the heart of the matter!
- Must you always look good to other people?
- Are you judgmental toward people who do not live up to your standards?
- Is it true that nothing is ever good enough for you? Is the glass always half empty?
- Have you become a grumbler?
- Are you ungrateful to God for all His blessings because they are not “perfect” in your judgment?
Answering questions like these is only the beginning of addressing this heart issue. Once you understand that your perfectionism is truly a visible display of the pride in your heart, you must take steps to overcome it by God’s grace and power.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12–14, ESV
Renewing Your Mind
Romans 12:2 tells us to be transformed or changed completely (inside and out) by the renewing of our minds.
Our minds are renewed through reading and meditation on the Bible. Your thoughts will be impacted by those precious words of God’s as they weave their way into your heart. Your desires will change as your heart changes and what God wants for you becomes more important to you than being perfect is right now. Your actions will change as your desires change and your thoughts change.
This is not going to be an easy area to address in your life. You most likely have years of ingrained habits that you will have to overcome and address one at a time. You may find discouragement right around the corner as you desire to change. Please let me encourage you by reminding you that Jesus Christ died for your sins, including pride and perfectionism.
God Gives the Victory
There is no sin that by His power and grace you cannot overcome.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9–10, ESV
COUNSELING: Stuck in perfectionism, fear, or anger? Meet with one of our trained, certified counselors in person (in the greater Chicago area) or by Skype. Here’s more on our counseling.