Perfectionism Is an Illusion
By Meg Bucher
“Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” - 2 Corinthians 7:1 NIV
When I discovered my grade-school aged daughter was hiding school papers with less than perfect scores, I stopped hanging the perfectly scored papers on the fridge. It was sending the wrong message, that the score on her paper mattered more than the effort she put into it. I apologized to her for sending the wrong message by posting only perfect scores on the fridge. She needed to be reminded that her life is worth more than test scores, grades, and honors.
Perfectionism yells, You are not good enough! Like a distortion peddle pushed down to the floor, it amplifies lies over truth.
So what does our verse mean, when it says, “let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God”? What does it mean to perfect holiness?
To perfect holiness, we need the camaraderie found in fellow believers. The mission to spread the good news of Jesus Christ is difficult, and we will be tempted to believe many amplified lies convincing us we are not good enough. “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life,” Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:7 (NIV). When we are tempted to compromise, or hide our “less than” in shame because we don’t think it’s possible to live up to holy standards of living, we need the crowd of believers surrounding us to take the perfect scores down from the fridge and remind us who we really are in Christ.
How can we strive for holy living as the body of Christ when we have such a difficult time getting past all of our imperfections to focus on the main mission of spreading the Gospel? “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy;” wrote the author of Hebrews, “without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14 NIV) We lovingly hold each other accountable.
The dictionary defines perfectionism as “the doctrine that the perfection of moral character constitutes a person’s highest good; a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.” Merriam Webster also defines perfectionism in this way: “the theological doctrine that a state of freedom from sin is attainable on earth.”
Jesus is perfect. His perfect sacrifice on the cross freed us from sin. Freedom is not an illusion. In and through our perfect God, we are free. Perfecting holiness is work of the Holy Spirit in us. We strive to do something we were never meant to do when we think we can reach perfection on our own accord or efforts.
The Olympics amaze us every four years. Records are broken at every Olympic Games. New standards and scores of perfection are set. Only for us to figure out how to reach higher, run faster, and be stronger.
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though not for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” (1 Peter 1:6 NIV) We forget how hard Jesus told us it would be to follow Him. “People will hate you because of me,” He promised. Paul told the Corinthians, and I believe God reminds us, to find the people who are pursing Christ alongside us. They are placed purposefully, sprinkled into our lives by our loving Father. All of humanity are children of God, believer or nonbeliever. Jesus sacrificially died for every single person. But for encouragement… we are wise to seek counsel from those who are not driven by the perfectionism of this world, but by the One who was perfect so that we can be free.
Meg Bucher writes about everyday life within the love of Christ as an author, freelance writer and blogger at Sunny&80. Her first book, “Friends with Everyone,” is available on amazon.com. She earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University, but stepped out of the business world to stay at home and raise her two daughters. Besides writing, she leads a Bible Study for Women and serves as a Youth Ministry leader in her community. She lives in Northern Ohio with her husband, Jim, and two daughters.
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