From Perfectionism to Excellence
by Margaret D. Mitchell
Week of February 2, 2014
"To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless." -Psalm 119:96
God alone is perfect. And all of us are in a state of being perfected by our Perfector, Almighty God, which means that none of us have arrived yet. Perfecting takes a lifetime. Mankind’s standards are always limited and should not be held above God’s process of perfecting.
I especially like how Joyce Meyer puts it, “Perfect walked on earth 2,000 years ago, and He hasn’t come back yet!”
Do you invite God to transform you to His likeness His way? Do you allow Him free access to your soul? Or do you fear that God won’t show up for you?
When we fall into perfectionist attitudes, behaviors and desires, we are in a dangerous state of self-righteousness and idolatry. By default, we have dethroned God and positioned ourselves on His throne. We set ourselves up for disappointment by the lies and false expectations we have come to believe. God is sovereign, and He won’t bless our foolish falsehood.
Cycle of Imprisonment
Perfectionism is a cycle that rejects and neglects. It perpetuates inadequacy—the very thing perfectionists fear most at their core. Perfectionism is a tyrannical stronghold that inherently dictates ungodly expectations in all areas of our lives. Perfectionism projects its own standards, on people and their work with strong suggestions of disapproval. Perfection says, “You’re unlovable! Therefore I will not affiliate, collaborate or connect with you beyond the surface.”
People who struggle with perfectionism wound others out of their own wounds. They secretly feel inadequate and are ashamed of their inadequacy. They have been held to unrealistic standards either by others, themselves or both. They falsely believe that they should be perfect. Because perfectionists hurt internally, they use hard-heartedness and criticism as a barrier. They love conditionally. They are frequently disappointed in their quest to be perfect and be served perfectly by others. Perfectionists can feel isolated. They are imprisoned by what they fear and project most—disapproval and abandonment.
Fear of Intimacy
Perfectionism is both an inward and outward sin, a desecration that wears people out. It is a reaction of insecurity rooted in deep fear. It is a hook of the enemy and a wedge of disunity that interferes with intimacy and blocks blessing—both in relationship with God and with others. When two people in a relationship operate in perfectionism, there is a double portion of enemy strategy operating for destruction.
Mask of Inadequacy
Perfectionism is a haughty mask, attempting to present a polished apple on the outside while attempting to hide a rotten core. Perfectionism is an adoption of the enemy’s counterfeit shield of fear over God’s shield of faith. Perfectionists secretly fear that if they aren’t perfect, they are nothing at all, that they will never measure up, that they will be humiliated by their inadequacies.
Stunts Growth & Blessings
Perfectionism denies God’s seeds for growth potential inside themselves and in others, the inherent attitude being, “Perfect people don’t need to grow. We must simply achieve.” Perfectionism relies upon self more than God’s grace for accomplishment. Perfectionism is synonymous with false pressures. Perfectionism doesn’t trust God enough.
Perfectionism defiles rest. It is the antithesis of Matthew 11:29-30, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Perfectionism overworks and is competitive with others, not running a race before God alone. Perfectionism’s extraneous efforts and perceived distortions wear them out. Perfectionism clutters God’s process of perfecting. Perfectionism leads to burn out.
Lay That Idol Down
We must lay down our pathetic idol of perfectionism. Confess fear, inadequacy and pride as sin. Invite God’s grace to align our souls with Him. Then pick up our shield of faith and trust God to perfect us and everyone else His way. Accept The Holy Spirit’s transformation process of our souls (mind, emotions, will) over the span of our lifetime. God always has more holiness for us to receive. He doesn’t stop at the first scripture we read, or the first revelation He gives us or the 100th conference we attend or sermon we sit under or training resource we absorb. None of us know it all, and we have no legitimate reason to pretend that we do. God is way bigger than all of that and all of us.
Forgive yourself and those who planted seeds of perfectionism in you. We must forgive to be forgiven (Mark 11:26). Choose forbearance with others and remember that God is perfecting them while He perfects you. Trust in God’s process—that His grace is bigger than everyone’s sin, including our own. We must extend grace to others and be kind to ourselves so frustration doesn’t set in. Every imperfection in others is an opportunity to repent of the same imperfection in us. God is using others to mirror our own imperfections. This is humbling.
Adopt God’s Truth
We must affirm that, spiritually, we are who God says we are—the righteousness of Christ (2 Cor 5:21). Seek The Lord and His scriptures that affirm His truth for our identity in Him and our lives. Romans 8:14-17 tells us, "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…” God alone is our quality assurance. And we can rest in the assurance of His word over our own false inclinations. Remember, God exalts the humble, not the prideful.
Restoration of Faith
Remember that Jesus died for us. He did a completed work at the cross. It’s a matter of us receiving what He did. Anything else is a denial of the fullness of Christ and unbelief. Our minds need to be renewed with this truth. Ask God to awaken you to His faith for you. Romans 12:3 says, "...God has allotted to each a measure of faith." His faithfulness will meet your faith to propel miracles. So set your expectation on Him. When others fall short, He will always provide a way. Your hope is to be dependent upon Him, not on the performance of others.
Don’t expect others to operate in the same gifts or assignments God gave you. We are all different members of the same body (Romans 12:4-8). Others have genius too, just not necessarily your type. Respect God’s truth regarding this when you feel inclined to feel superior to others. Our strength comes from The Lord (Psalm 121:2), not from condemning or minimizing others. So build yourself up in His word. Don’t tear others down. We see in part, where God sees the whole person and where He desires to take them. We haven’t arrived at our destination either. We are all on a journey, and there’s always more to what we currently understand. This is humbling.
Remember that no matter what mankind’s standards are—even those set forth in our workplace manuals—God standards are always higher and, as such, they always trump mankind’s. We never lose when we chose God’s way consistently.
Partakers of Grace
Remember Paul’s words in Philippians 1:6, 9-11, " For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."
Margaret D. Mitchell is the Founder of God's Love at Work, a marketplace outreach purposed to share God's greatest power source - the love of Christ. This devotional was adapted from Margaret's latest book, "Enduring Grace," to be released soon.