I have to admit, I can tend toward being a perfectionist. I want to give everything my best and I can second guess myself when I’m not sure I have given my best. But, some of my favorite verses of Scripture remind me that my purpose is not to please men or to be seen as perfect in their eyes but rather to seek to serve the Lord as best I can and to press on in this life, seeking to glorify God, until I reach the goal, which is life with Jesus in eternity. Philippians 3:12-14 says:
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
These verses remind me that if such a man as the Apostle Paul was not perfect in this life, I will not be either. Knowing that, these verses also remind me that my goal should not be perfection, but rather to keep pressing on and pressing in to Christ as I learn and grow with Him until the day that He does call me heavenward. I am reminded through these verses to let go of what is behind and strain toward what is ahead of me – Heaven.
If you are struggling with perfectionism, it may do you some good to remind yourself that perfection cannot be attained in this life and that we will never be completely satisfied in this world, as this world is not our home (1 John 2:15-17, Philippians 3:20). Additionally, I have found that battling perfectionism is so many times about learning to change your self-talk. If you are constantly playing a tape in your head that says you have to be perfect and you cannot make mistakes, you will need to make a purposeful effort to put in a new tape and reinforce new thoughts that don’t demand perfection, allow for mistakes (because we all make them), and allow for God’s grace to cover those mistakes. Taking captive your thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5) and battling your natural tendency toward perfectionism will be a daily struggle at first, but you can learn to change the things you tell yourself.
Other ways of reinforcing more positive thoughts is to write them down and post them around your house. Put a favorite Scripture verse on your fridge, your bathroom mirror, or your car steering wheel. Write down a list of positive, grace-filled phrases in your journal or planner and make it a point to read the list every day. Ask others to hold you accountable by reminding you when you are tending toward perfectionism and when you need to allow for grace.
If you’re like me, you may feel at times like letting go of perfectionism means you are letting go of doing quality work. This of course, is not true, and that is another way these verses in Philippians can encourage us. They remind us of where we need to work hard and focus our energy and that is on our relationship with the Lord. We don’t have to be perfect in our relationship with the Lord (in fact, we never will be perfect in this life) but we can strive our best to know Him better until that day that we see Him in Heaven. And, rather than focusing on whether we were or were not great at something we did in the past, we can focus on simply knowing Him more deeply, (“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…”).
So, if you are struggling with perfectionism, take heart! Remember who God says you are and write down those positive thoughts about yourself as well as some thoughts about not having to attain perfection and letting go of the past. Read those thoughts and Scriptures daily that remind you that you don’t have to (and you can’t) be perfect. Ask others to hold you accountable and remind you when you are tending toward perfectionism. Take out that old tired tape in your head that says, “I have to be perfect!” and put in a new one that says something like, “His grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9).Casey West