Thursday, December 3, 2009

Are you a perfectionist?

Are you a perfectionist? I often am. But have you ever thought about who sets the standard for perfection? If you think about it, when you want things done “perfectly”, isn’t perfectly your own standard, your idea of how something should be done? And usually when others don’t follow that standard we’ve set in our minds, we get angry at them as if they’ve broken a rule or sinned.

Think about a recent circumstance where your perfectionism was disclosed. Did you expect someone else to do a task exactly how you do it? Perfectionism is usually “me-focused”, wanting to achieve (or wanting others to achieve) a standard of “perfection” we have set. So ask yourself—what is my heart’s motivation? Why do I want this to be done in a certain way or to a certain caliber?

I’m not suggesting that you not do things well. It is good to do things thoroughly. God commands us to do all our work “unto the Lord”. Additionally, He desires for us to work diligently and hard at what we are given, and to be faithful whatever task He has set before us. But if perfectionism is an extra biblical standard that we’ve set, when does thoroughness and hard work turn into perfectionism and sin?

Most of the time when we desire for ourselves to reach a level of perfection it is for the wrong reasons. Could it be…
So others will recognize and praise you?
So you can feel confident about your status or accomplishment?
So God will be pleased with your achievement?

If this is your motivation for getting things to a certain standard or until they are just right, your heart’s motivation is wrong. Whatever we do should be done well, and we should work with all our might as unto the Lord, but it needs to flow from an earnest desire to love and obey Him, not anything else! Reaching your standard of perfection isn’t going to please God any more. He wants your heart, not things done right outwardly.


Chloƫ said...

Hi Allison!

I can totally relate to this post! I have "perfectionism" tendencies, and reaize that's no really anything to brag about. I agree: Perfectionism usually comes from self-centeredness. Thank you for this convicting reminder!

Kristen said...

Great reminder, Allison. I am a big perfectionist, and I am realizing this more and more ... Thanks for sharing your insight on this. It is so hard to have the right motivation without a self-centered attitude in preferences or goals in a task.

Jessica said...

Allison, I thought this an excellent thought-provoking post on perfectionism, a challenge to the young and old alike. That's an interesting distinction you drew between the motives of pleasing God and loving God. Often I am tempted to think they are the same. But now that I put more thought into it, I realize that pleasing God is focused on me -- so that I can receive his pleasure in me. But loving God is focused on Him and taking pleasure in Him. So I should attempt a task well and with diligence as a response to taking pleasure in God and who he is, rather than to receive a commendation from Him.

Writing this reminds me of some of the things I have heard from John Piper.

Mrs. Lee