As I checked, double-checked and, yup, triple-checked some professional emails I had to send earlier this week, I caught myself. I was letting perfectionism creep in. I needed to just send those emails and move on before I invested a lot more time and thought than the situation called for. Thankfully, this time around, recognizing what I was doing snapped me right out of it, so I clicked send and stopped obsessing.
But it’s not always that easy. The emails, combined with some things I read this morning, reminded me that I sometimes tie immense importance to my performance of routine tasks. I must walk my dogs every day. I have to write spectacular blog posts that will resonate with my audience. I need to clean the house as well as possible for the Realtor’s visit. I must give the perfect insightful edits to impress this client. I ought to be more thoughtful and sincere.
Must. Every. Have to. Spectacular. Need. As well as possible. Perfect. Impress. Ought. More.
This is the language of a perfectionist, and it’s poison.
Though it didn’t get the better of me with those emails, there are times when this poison seeps from the folds of my brain, enters my lifeblood, and clogs my heart until there’s no room for rest and even less room for failure. When I stumble under its effects, I compare myself to others and declare myself lacking. Perfectionism taunts me to pull back if I don’t feel I can surpass all expectations.
No matter how hard I try or how many successes I experience, perfectionism will heckle me if I let it, saying my efforts don’t measure up and I don’t deserve to achieve my dreams. It tells me I have too far to go and that I am a failure. It sings that other overachievers are naturals at what they do, and it’s only me who has to work so hard.
These lies are all part of the poison. If you hear them pounding through your veins, don’t buy a single one of them.
Perfectionism is poison that comes in a bottle labelled, It’s all up to me.
Praise God, there’s an antidote. If you need it, just look for the bottle that says, It’s all up to Jesus. When we focus on him and his perfect love, perfectionism drains from our systems.
Let’s do that together, shall we? The next section is flooded with references to Bible verses. Especially if you’ve ingested some perfectionism poison lately, I hope you’ll join me in taking the time to look these up and put the focus back where it belongs–on Jesus and the mighty Word of God.
Jesus died on the cross because not a single one of us is perfect (Romans 3:23). He loves us so deeply that he would suffer torture and death to restore a relationship with us, imperfect as we are (Romans 5:8). Once we enter that relationship with him, we’re perfect in his sight, not because we earned it or deserve it or tried so very hard, but because of what he did (Colossians 1:22, Ephesians 2:8-9). He is the one who is faithful (Psalm 36:5). He is the one who guides our steps (Isaiah 58:11). He is powerful enough to transform our failures into glorious displays of his power (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Our failures don’t stop him, and our successes could never top what he does in and through us.
In fact, he is our source of success.
He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). That’s his job. Not ours.
May each of us learn anew that as believers, we are accepted and loved (John 6:37, John 3:16, Ephesians 2:4, Romans 8:38-39). We are bought with a price he willingly paid (1 Corinthians 6:20, John 10:18). We are new (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are perfectly covered in his grace (Ephesians 1:7-8). We are his children, upon whom he lavishes all good things (1 John 3:1, Ephesians 1:7-8, Psalm 84:11, Romans 8:32). In him, we have hope and life and light and purpose and value (Romans 5:5, Psalm 36:9, Ephesians 2:10, 1 Corinthians 7:23). This is all a gift, not from anything we’ve done in the past or will do in the future (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Rest in that. Let it soak in and absorb the poison of perfectionism right out of your system.
That’s a lot of verses, but it’s not even close to all the truths the Bible offers to combat perfectionism. Do you have a go-to verse for when you begin to think it’s all up to you or that you must work to be good enough?