“All in all, we suffer from the disease of perfectionism, which is the biggest obstacle to true perfection because it dries up the interior spirit, kills real faith, and makes us concentrate on ourselves instead of Jesus”
– Thomas Merton

I suppose that I am an odd sort of Perfectionist. I am not Type A. I am not obsessed with (or even all that interested in) the minutia of details that Perfectionists can languish over. I tend to see things in Big Pictures as opposed to Small Steps. However, I have struggled with Perfectionism for most of my life. And what I am only now beginning to understand is that Perfectionism presents itself to me less as a tool of measurement but more as a weapon of resistance. It is less about outcomes, than it is about keeping things from coming out.

Perfectionism is a meticulously pruned weed that is rooted in fear.

For me, if it can’t be perfect, if I can’t make it all come together how I imagine it should…I don’t do it. I avoid it. I let it sit. I leave it at 75%. And over time, the accumulation of all my “imperfect” and undone projects and ideas begins to turn on me and taunt me. They call into question whether I’m good at anything if I can’t simply finish these few “perfect” things. It can become a downward spiral if I’m not careful. And endless chasing of tails, not ever knowing what “perfection” really looks like for this or that, just knowing that I haven’t reached it yet. This is how Perfectionism slowly sedates me into “less than” living.

So I have decided once and for all to put Perfectionism to Death!

My strategy is simple – Do more imperfect things. To become increasingly more OK with things being just…OK every now and then. To Sit…Commit…and Hit Submit. To release my work and to release its results. To no longer confuse Excellence with Perfectionism. To accept that Grace isn’t just for my sins, but also for my Parenting, my Sermons, my Crazy Ideas, my Writing, my unhealthy Expectations of Myself, and my dark moments of Self-Doubt. I commit to working hard without getting worked over by my misplaced perception of perfection. So I am putting Perfection out of it’s misery!

For me to continue to live like I believe that the buck of perfection stops with me is to see both myself and God inaccurately. The persistence of Perfectionism is a resistance to Grace and Dependence. It is putting my faith in me and my ability to do what only God can do and what God always does. It’s His job to be Perfect. Not mine. And it is becoming clearer and clearer that for me to live a full life filled with Grace…I am going to have to put to death my Perfectionism.

How about you? Do you struggle with Perfectionism? Where does it reveal it’s perfectly ugly head for you? How do you combat it? What’s winning right now in your life – Grace or Perfectionism? I’d love to hear from you.

  • Ericka Vaughn Lashley says:

    I really needed this dose of reality Pastor Jarrett. Real Talk. thanks, for that. I find that perfectionism sneaks it’s way into my life through the avenues of planning and scheduling. I AM that type-A person and boy do I love a good plan. and boy do I hate when a “good plan”-particularly my plan is foiled. Nevermind what God has planned-JK-but seriously-WHY does He have to be so wildly unpredictable?! There have been times (recently) when I’ve made a decision to do or not do something based on my ability to see how it might or might now work out in the future. If I can’t see how it was going to work out, I’m not going to put myself in a position to fail, be disappointed or get hurt, especially relationally. It’s the uncertainty that gets me. I like to know things. I can handle whatever happens if I KNOW what to prepare myself for-self preservation is instinctual.

    I was talking to this guy about that need to know everything and you won’t believe what he said to me! He said, “Ericka, I don’t understand how your faith works? Isn’t that the point? we don’t know everything and therefore have to trust God. We can’t predict the future and might as well let it go and live fully in the moment that is now. Isn’t that the very bases of our faith?” ……………..Jeeze-a-lou he didn’t mince words. At that exact moment I was angry, embarrassed, shocked, speechless, annoyed but I knew he was right. Gosh! He was so right…

    I think my planning and perfection at it’s very core is an attempt to preserve and protect myself and I can’t. (that’s a tough pill to swallow) I can’t make everything ok and God dosen’t seem to be interested in preserving me. He seems more interested in giving me opprotunities to reach beyond the limits of my capability and fall into His very capable hands. He’s redefining for me what it means to be “safe”. Day to day I feel God calling me to “rest in the uncertainly”. I’ll be honest, I don’t fully know what that means, or what it looks like; but I’m grateful for people like you, who write things like this and help me pull back another layer.

    Thanks

    • Ericka,
      I LOVE your thoughts and reflections on all of this. SO honest. SO good. I love that your friend called it out. And I am inspired by your honest and humble response.
      Grateful for you.

      #Jeeze-a-lou!

      • Ericka Vaughn Lashley says:

        haha #Jeeze-a-lou day=made 🙂

  • Stefenie Sawyer says:

    Hi my name is Stefenie and I am a perfectionist. Just hearing myself say that can be hard to hear. My perfectionism presents itself when I am critical towards myself and others. I find that for me to kill perfectionism on a daily basis it requires me to move slower. The practice of silence, rest, creative contemplative practices tempered with enough people time fuels the freedom to be me. All of me. I find its a lot of work to be free yet I can no longer afford not to be. Thank you for sharing your journey. It helps me continue mine.

    • So grateful for you Stefenie and for your honest confession!
      We could start a P.A. and spend the whole time confessing and practicing slow, unhurried, imperfect disciplines.

      Miss you guys and miss our office haircuts (HA!)
      Give our love to Christian and the kids!

  • Joey Martin says:

    I cried when I read your article…How close to home that hits…

  • Keith Randall says:

    Jarrett,
    This hit close to home for me as well. I have been on a quest to kill perfectionism for the past 3 years. In the past perfectionism crippled my spiritual,academic and professional life. The phrase that has helped me in the battle has been “good enough”. My wife painted a sign that hangs in my office that says “You are good enough”. I am finding freedom spiritually as I rest in God’s love for me. I recently started a Master’s degree and I love your phrase “Sit, commit and hit submit”. It will be good enough. Thanks for sharing your heart. Keith

    • Great thoughts / phrase Keith.
      “Good Enough” can be an incredibly powerful phrase to break the power of perfectionism.
      Best to you and your Masters pursuit.

  • Cori says:

    This is so me. We are in the middle of building a house. I feel like it’s God’s way of helping me get over my perfectionism, because everything about the project is not perfect. Perfectionism cripples every area of my life. It’s a slow process to peel away the layers, but I feel like it is happening in my life, and I’m incredibly thankful for God’s grace.

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