Freedom from the Prison of Perfectionism
God has called us to freedom and liberty in every area of our lives, but Satan still wants to keep us in bondage — even to the saints in Galatia. Paul refers to that in Galatians 1:1-3,
"O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?"
Paul was challenging the Galatians, "Did you get saved by keeping the Ten Commandments or by trusting in Jesus Christ?" When Paul refers to the flesh, he's not talking about our actual flesh — he's talking about our Adamic nature, which tries to be good so that we can be received by Almighty God.
What is perfectionism? I give it to you in a sentence. It is judging yourself by your achievements. You measure your worth in terms of productivity and accomplishment. Do you find yourself striving for unattainable goals, never reaching them, and, therefore, never, ever being fulfilled? The key words of a perfectionist are I must, I should, I ought. Perfectionists are not led; they are driven.
Life Behind Bars
What is life behind bars like for a perfectionist? Let me tell you some marks of life behind these prison walls and these prison bars of perfectionism.
The perfectionist is never satisfied. It's unattainable. The perfectionist sets impossible goals, and when he doesn't reach them, he's disappointed and frustrated. If we think that God accepts us on the basis of our achievement, then, we'll never know when we've done enough, and, therefore, we will never really feel satisfied and accepted in God's sight.
The perfectionist is critical of other people. They are intolerable of failure in other people. We might as well learn to accept our imperfections. God already knows that we're not perfect anyway — we might as well admit it.
The perfectionist ruins the fellowship. The church is the only organization I know of that you have to profess to be bad before you can join. One man said, "I'm looking for a perfect church." A friend replied, "Well, don't join it, because if you'd find it, you'd spoil it!"
The perfectionist sets impossible goals for himself. When a perfectionist sets such high goals, he is always behind and he can never do enough.
The perfectionist is an idealist. He's not a realist. Oswald Chambers said, "No man is ever ready to serve God until he becomes first disillusioned." If anyone has an allusion about anybody being perfect, or any situation ever being perfect, then you are an idealist.
A perfectionist has to be the best, not his best. You don't have to get upset if somebody has obtained more or done more than you can do. Accept who you are. See Romans 12:3-4.
A perfectionist values himself by what he does, what he has, or what he obtains rather than who he is. That's where he gets his self worth by what he does rather than what he is.
A perfectionist feels guilty if he ever relaxes. He doesn't see God as a good God. He sees God as a demanding God. And, he's trying to earn his acceptance.
A perfectionist is project-minded rather than process-minded. He is never finished or satisfied. He may even be afraid of getting finished because the job may not be good enough. He's so obsessed with the destination, he can't enjoy the trip.
A perfectionist has irremovable guilt. He dwells on failure, in fact, he can never let go of his failure. He feels he must punish himself for having failed.
A perfectionist can't accept a compliment or criticism. The poor guy is stuck in the middle! Compliments are interpreted as, "I could have done better." And criticism is interpreted as, "You don't like me."
Did any of these walk on your toes? So just how do you get out of the prison of perfectionism? Next month...we will look at how to make a prison break!