Perfectly Whole

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I am a recovering perfectionist. I used to be a perfectionist in virtually every area of my life. Now I have selective perfectionist tendencies. The results of the four Are You a Perfectionist? quizzes I took (you see taking 1, 2, or 3 quizzes was not enough! I said I was recovering, not recovered!) indicate that I am a high achiever with perfectionist tendencies. My results say that I am “able to enjoy the journey without getting overly hung up on the results.” That’s true for so much of my life; however, in certain areas of I just don’t know when “good enough” is good enough. Perfectionism usually rears its ugly head in areas of my passions: teaching, speaking, and writing. Each lesson, speech, or article is researched, written, revised, revised, and revised again until eventually time expires and I’m forced to end the process, not always satisfied with the result. Being a high achiever means I can slip over into the abyss of perfectionism at any time!

Perfectionists are complicated beings. We set high standards for ourselves and are displeased when we don’t meet them. We believe that other people count on us and feel guilty when we don’t meet their expectations.

Perfectionists struggle with contentment and often place too much emphasis on self-satisfaction. And that’s when perfectionism can be an obstacle to spiritual growth. It becomes a stronghold as the perfectionist is held in the bondage of self-contentment.

Christ came to give us freedom from all kinds of bondage. In Galatians 5: 1-5 Paul speaks to the Galatians about the danger of getting tied up in the “chains of slavery” of the Jewish law. He points to the way of grace based on Christ’s love instead of the way of law based on human achievement. The Galatians were guilty of following rules and regulations but not giving Christ their heart. Perfectionists get tied up in our own laws and human achievement. We need to do as Paul advised and find our satisfaction in Christ. If we substitute the word perfectionism for the word circumcision in this passage, we’ll discover a relevant message.

1 Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.
2-3I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision (PERFECTIONISM) or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ's hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision (PERFECTIONISM) trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law. 4-6I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.
Galatians 5: 1-5

How do we release the bonds of perfectionism? Ask Him!

Accept our limitations.
Set attainable goals for progress not perfection.
Keep a sense of humor.

Have a plan to know when “good enough” is good enough.
Invest in the process more than the result.
Make Christ the center.

For the Greeks the word perfect means whole or complete. The perfection we should strive for is in being whole in Christ. Our goal is to be perfectly whole!


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