• Scott Watkins

Combating The Voice Of Perfectionism

A few months ago, I got hooked on watching a guy restore antiques on YouTube. The transformation of junk into literal works of art was mesmerizing. Whether it’s sports, music, car repair, business, anything really, watching a master work his craft captivates me. It is a gift. Experiencing the artistry without putting in the work reminds me of God’s grace. It reminds me that God is with us and is a glimpse into our heavenly future. This is one way meaning fills our work.

But while understanding work’s meaning gives purpose, it doesn’t protect us from the devilish assault of perfectionism. In fact, knowing our work could glorify God gives the voice of perfectionism a weapon. It can usher in suffocating, black and white thinking that evaluates everything as perfect or complete garbage. It can drain our resolve or ensnare us in an obsession with perfection. Several truths about perfection helped me combat the oppression of perfectionism.

Human Perfection Is A Mirage

The voice of perfectionism is untrustworthy in its judgements. It shatters us when we don’t hit the mark and flatters us when we do. But we know defining perfection is subjective, and as Christians, the one opinion that matters most is God. God, who told us that his thoughts and ways differ from ours (Isaiah 55:8). Most times, we don’t know what God considers a perfect result. How often have you experienced a setback and were later thankful for it? What you thought was failure was in fact perfect. We are poor judges because we don’t think like God.

This idea hit home one day when I noticed a particularly unattractive tree out my window. If humans made trees, how would they compare? They would probably be constructed from sleek steel, with straight lines and perfect symmetry, not something gnarled with knots, filled with bugs, pealing bark, and leafless six months out of the year. It would be functional and efficient, but sterile by comparison. Yet when God made the trees, he called them very good. Every imperfection (to human eyes) has a mysterious purpose. What we think is perfect, and what God says is perfect are often different.

Imperfection Isn’t Shameful

The voice of perfectionism claims that imperfection is shameful. When failure exposes our weaknesses, we feel naked and scramble for cover. But consider what Paul wrote to the Corinthian church.

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29, NIV)

God chose foolish, weak, lowly and despised people as his elect. These people were not Plan B. These qualities we consider imperfect qualified them. Is it possible God sees our imperfections the same way? When Paul grasped this, instead of being ashamed, he declared, ‘I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses’ (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV).

True Perfection Is In Our Future

The voice of perfectionism is unmerciful. It colors everything in black or white, good or bad, now or never. But the grace of God creates a new category called the forgiven sinner. A righteous one, not yet like him (1 John 3:2). In God’s wisdom, he chose to perfect us slowly. Which means imperfection is our reality for now, yet it still holds potential for glory; restoration, transformation, and unyielding commitment have their own beauty.

Christians live in the tension between perfection and grace, but one day we will be perfect. In the meantime, be encouraged as the master craftsman transforms the junk of your life into his artwork. Don’t hide his work; let his artistry mesmerize the world.