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May 10, 2022

Are You Trying to Be Perfect?

A compilation

Audio length: 11:23
Download Audio (10.4MB)

I like to do things well and thoroughly, no matter how much time it takes. I’m a perfectionist. In my decision-making, I’ve come to recognize that my main motivation is avoiding making mistakes. I try to make sure that my work and personal decisions are as right as they can possibly be. Oh, the agony and stress of the whole process! Almost any decision had to be perfect—from what shampoo to buy to which seat to choose on a bus. Everything had to be well thought through, all options and possibilities considered. I didn’t realize how much stress I was bringing into my life!

When I came to know Jesus and began involving Him in my life, I found that things could be much easier and that He could help me in my decision-making—after all, who knows better than the all-knowing One? So I began asking for His guidance. Sometimes He would give me specific guidance. Other times He didn’t indicate a clear course of action, leaving it in my court to search His Word and make godly decisions based on its precepts.

However, the best and most reassuring consequence of involving God is that He loves me so much that even if I make a wrong choice, He continues to work with me and my decisions. He doesn’t hold it against me when I make a mistake or let selfishness or fear guide my choices. He takes me where I’m at and helps me to grow into making better choices.

I am still a perfectionist to some extent, even after so many years of walking with Jesus, but finding Him has made my life so much easier and happier. Having Him to counsel with and count on has helped to take the stress out of my decision-making, because I know that although I may make mistakes, He can work even those for my good.1Irena Žabičková

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I am a recovering perfectionist. I like my life and my house and my workspace to be tidy and clean and in proper order. When I fail, I beat myself up. When I succeed, I don’t take time to rest or celebrate before moving on to the next task. … Perfectionists exist in a constant state of frustration.

Even if you’re not a perfectionist, you can still become discouraged by your flaws. Perhaps that’s why Jesus’ roster of disciples provides great comfort. One might expect Jesus to handpick the best and the brightest. …

But as it turns out, Jesus skips over the smarty-pants valedictorians and Ivy League graduates. Instead, Jesus assembles an improbable team.

Luke 6:13 records: “When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he designated to be apostles.”

Peter—impetuous brazen, competitive, waffler

Andrew—lives in the shadow of his brother, Peter

James—a son of “thunder,” edging for the front row

John—a son of “thunder,” full of hot air and swagger

Philip—limited by his experience

Bartholomew—lacks a filter

Matthew—shady past as a tax collector

Thomas—must I remind you of his colossal doubt?

Simon the Zealot—freedom fighter

Jude—way too quiet, not likely to be selected for class president

Judas—a greedy backstabber

What’s-his-name?—That obscure guy no one can remember

A list like this makes the perfectionist in me as nervous as an introvert at a housewarming party. ...

Jesus’ screening process for His disciples elevates the lowly. He reminds us that the Kingdom of God doesn’t expand through the work of religious paparazzi and spiritual overachievers. God isn’t limited by our imperfections.

God fiercely loves us through our imperfections—not in spite of them.

Our weaknesses and flaws can become portals for God’s grace, windows to display His glory. When imperfect people trust God and do their best to follow Him, they become glimmers of goodness, and we can only assume that something or Someone else must be at work. …

When your flaws overwhelm you, think of the flawed followers of Jesus who are revered as apostles. He loves you just as dearly as He loved them and offers you the privilege of serving Him. Just as you are.—Margaret Feinberg2

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Not only do I accept you as you are, I love you as you are. I died a criminal’s death so I could adorn you with My own perfection. That’s why bringing your thoughts to Me is so important: It is my perfect righteousness that saves you, and it will never be taken away from you!

You can easily fall prey to self-rejection if you have unrealistic expectations for yourself. When you fail, I want you to bring your focus back to Me gently, without judging yourself. Instead of doing further harm by putting yourself down, persist in setting your sights on Me. I always welcome you back with unfailing Love.—Jesus3

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To put it bluntly, perfectionism is a hoax. We cannot be perfect! Yet many well-meaning people continue to strive for this unattainable goal. They want to exceed expectations at work, at home, at church, in sports, in hobbies, in physical appearance—and the list goes on. They have somehow convinced themselves that to be acceptable requires them to measure up to a personal or societal standard of perfection. A perfectionistic mindset brings stress and can only lead to discontent and frustration. Perfectionism often involves raising the bar to absurd heights and striving in our own efforts for something that only God can do.

The point of the gospel is that we are unable to save ourselves. We all “fall short”; we all “miss the mark.”4 Sinners need a Savior, and that’s why Jesus came. When we trust in Him, He forgives our shortcomings, imperfections, and iniquities. We can stop striving for an arbitrary, worldly “perfection” and rest in the Perfect One.5

Martha, who was “worried and upset about many things,” probably struggled with perfectionism as she served the Lord.6 As she prepared the dinner and set the table, she wanted everything to be just right. The problem was that she was setting a higher standard for herself than Jesus was setting for her. “Only one thing is needed,” Jesus told her. Then He pointed her to Mary’s example of peace and rest.7

It is true that the Bible calls us to be “perfect as [our] heavenly Father is perfect.”8 The Greek word for “perfect” here is telios. It means “brought to its end, completed, or perfect.” So, to be “perfect” in this sense is not how perfectionists so often imagine it. Rather, it is to be completed in Christ. Philippians 1:6 says that completion is the work of God. He created us, saved us, and is faithful to perfect us.

This is not to say that we have no responsibility to grow in our faith.9 We must cooperate with God’s work in us (His perfection of us)—see Philippians 2:12. We are called to live godly lives and to submit to God. But the focus of the Bible’s commands is not on others’ perception of us, as is so often the idol of the perfectionist. Instead, the focus is on our heart’s posture toward God.—From GotQuestions.org10

Published on Anchor May 2022. Read by Simon Peterson.
Music by Michael Dooley.


1 See Romans 8:28.

2 Margaret Feinberg, Flourish: Live Free, Live Loved (Worthy, 2016).

3 Sarah Young, Jesus Lives (Thomas Nelson, 2009).

4 Romans 3:23.

5 Matthew 11:28.

6 Luke 10:40–41.

7 Luke 10:42.

8 Matthew 5:48.

9 2 Peter 3:18.