The Cure for Perfectionism (It’s Not What You May Think)

This morning I asked people on my Facebook Page “What do you think of when you hear the word perfect?”Here’s a few of the responses:

  • Unreachable.
  • Impossible.
  • Anxiety.
  • Flawless.
  • A burden.
  • Something we feel pressured to be in every way. All the time.

No wonder the idea of perfect gives us hives. Or that over 730 books on the subject populate!

I just spent a week of vacation in a small cabin with Perfect. Well, at least it felt like it. It was the first full week we’ve spent with our daughter after her year in the residential facility. Because of a history in foster care, her struggle with attachment disorder has always pushed my perfectionist buttons. Her need, so deep from such early neglect, has always come across like this to me:

You will never be a good enough mom to me.

Most days, I simply did what any good perfectionist would do: try harder. Parent exactly like the best parenting books suggested. Say just the right things. Take her to the right specialists. Spend more and better time with her. But her time away began to show me how broken that pursuit has left me through years of being her mom. And I needed to find another way.

We all do it. Fight the sense that we’re not enough by trying to prove we are. We read things like “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) and try to live flawlessly in every area of life (which, by the way, isn’t what the word ‘perfect’ means at all). We struggle, get overwhelmed, feel inadequate and lose sight of who God uniquely, beautifully designed us to be.

It’s time to make peace with Perfect, friend.

Why perfect isn’t a four-letter word

After all, God is perfect. If there’s no darkness (a.k.a. bad) in Him, true perfect can’t be a negative, hurtful thing. His judgments are perfect—and in His estimation, you’re His child, redeemed, loved, and valued. His word is also perfect, flawless and complete. When scripture says we have everything we need for life, it’s not kidding. Christ’s work on the cross was perfect, too. It is finished, complete, permanent and limitless. Perfect is a pretty good word, if you ask me!

Here’s the kicker: If we’re in Christ …we are perfect*

Not the comparison-based idea of good enough or doing enough. Intrinsically, we have a completely new heart – a pure heart (Ezekiel 36:26). While we’ll never fully take hold of who He designed us to be while we’re living on Earth (Philippians 3:12), that doesn’t mean we’re insufficient. Who we are is perfect for today because the One who designed us “makes our way blameless” (Psalm 18:32). Whether we choose to be in Him – in His strength, in His will, in His arms – and live as He intended, or let sin tarnish and rust that beautiful design… that’s up to us.

Whatever we choose, the point is this: as a believer, perfect is your default. It’s a life-giving, dream-filling, confidence-building gift from the only One in the universe who truly understands the concept. Our struggle shouldn’t be to become the world’s sad version of this idea, but to wrap tight in the arms of God and let Him lead us through life as He intends for us.

So the next time your inner critic gets mean and starts to portray Perfect as a horrible tyrant, tell it to take a hike. Because perfect is your heritage, not your heartache. It’s your identity in Christ, not an impossibility.

What could life look like if you chose to see yourself in this light? Will you take that risk today?


* Philippians 3:15
Photo Credit: Kvikken

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