Per·fec·tion·ism, noun. “A fault, often disguised as a good quality, that ends up leaving the bearer disappointed with oneself for not having acted ‘perfectly’ in a given situation.”
Time for a confession: I’m inescapably stuck with this trait. Perhaps you can sympathize with my overwhelming desire to say the right things, act in the proper way, have every situation work out “just-so.”
Perfectionism is a constant companion that pokes its irritating self out when I’m shopping (this shirt doesn’t make me look like I think I should), doing my hair (does my frizzy hair that can't decide if its curly or straight always have to be so untameable?), at work (I wish I had said that to my co-worker just a little differently), and even at home (this kitchen ought to be immaculate — even with 4 boys living in the house!) Even as I write this, I internally cringe to see my all-too-frequent perfectionist thoughts in writing.
As if all that’s not bad enough, I’ve even unintentionally persuaded myself that in the in the next few years, I’ll become an ideal version of myself and have more ideal circumstances (which will, of course, eliminate any desire for things to be perfect since they already would be). You may guess that this expectation leads to some let-downs. When I don’t look like I feel I should, I tend to spend time wishing I was beautiful like so-and-so. When I have an “uff-da” moment and say entirely the wrong thing, I spend the rest of the day thinking of what I should have said. And when I make yet another mistake at work, I feel that I’ve ruined something dreadfully and should spend hours dwelling on it.
But so many things I scold myself for aren’t worth the time the scolding takes… they’re just mistakes. It’s not wrong to stumble in speech, have trouble learning something new, or have difficulty knowing what to say. In fact, I should expect all those things. After all, I’m not God, who does exactly what He wills.
Setting myself up to be able to do exactly what I want just right is not only dangerous, but it comes with side effects. It keeps me open to a mindset of failure whenever I fall short of a self-made standard.
I must continually acknowledge that God alone is perfect.
This side of heaven, I will continue to have an imperfect appearance, difficulty knowing what to say, and a messy kitchen. As much as I ought to strive for Christ-likeness, I shouldn’t imagine myself to be mistake-free.
Rather than attacking myself for my mistakes, it would be much more worthwhile to tear down the mental idol I make of myself which causes me to expect perfection and flawlessness in myself. The time I spend wishing I had acted “just-so” would be better spent in repentance of the thoughts, words, and actions that truly violate God’s Word. Proper perspective of God’s perfection and my weakness will keep me from imposing my ridiculous standard on myself and encourage me to give God alone the glory when it feels that things are going right.
What a simply perfect idea!