I have a news flash for you. You are not perfect. Neither am I. We are fallen human beings in a fallen world and we are going to mess up. A lot. Ecclesiastes 7:11 states, "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins." So, why do we try so hard to convince ourselves and others that we can avoid making mistakes?
A healthy dose of perfectionism can be good. There is nothing wrong with wanting to do your best work and to strive to reach your God-given potential. However, perfectionism, when it becomes out of balance, can be very unhealthy. George Bernard Shaw said, “A life making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” How can this be so?
First of all, when we attempt to be, or at least appear to be perfect, we are forgetting that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. We need to allow ourselves and others to see God’s work in our lives. That only works when we are willing to admit that we can’t do it all on our own.
The appearance of perfection also hinders our witness. Others may look at our wrinkle free exterior and assume that only perfect people can be Christians. I wonder how many people hold back from accepting Christ because in their mind they could never be good enough.
I once had a boss that loved to use this expression, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot”. This points to another danger of perfectionism. When we know it all, there’s no reason to learn and grow.
Perfectionism can also be paralyzing. We decide that if we can’t do something to perfection, we won’t do it all. How many important jobs are being left undone because we cannot do them to meet the impossible standards we have set?
Finally, we need to examine the reason for our perfectionism. Often, it is caused by pride. Perfectionism happens when our primary concern becomes how we are presenting ourselves and how good we look to others, not how we are presenting Christ and serving others. If that’s the case, it is time to re-prioritize.