Wisdom for the Perfectionist

A hurricane of harsh words flung from my lips one morning. Another bout with sin. Another let down.

In the aftermath, guilty frustration rushed through my veins; my heart felt tired and heavy. One glimpse at my reflection in the mirror, and my face crumpled into a cry.

As I hugged my mom and asked forgiveness for the disrespectful words I spewed that day, she helped me to realize something. One of the lies I have a tendency to believe is that I am more broken than the next person. Mom refuted that lie and told me I wasn’t worse than anyone else as she pointed me to Romans 3:23:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

She also shared the truth that there are always fresh starts in Christ, a truth found in Lamentations 3:22–23:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

The Plague of Perfectionism

The lie that I am more broken than others shows up in my life in the form of perfectionism. I set out to make myself feel better by trying to prove I’m not as broken as I feel. Perfectionism has infected my life for years. It is a tyrannical plague, whispering day in and day out:

“Be perfect and whatever you do, don’t slip.”

Most perfectionists resonate with the dizzy death spiral of trying, then failing, to achieve impossible standards.

Expecting mistakes to come isn’t what brings discouragement. It’s only when flaws set in motion one after the other that we become exhausted, defeated, and stuck.

Since Satan is a liar (John 8:44), he often twists the knife. In Christ, there is no condemnation (Rom. 8:1), yet the enemy often mocks, “Just look how terrible you are.”

We’re left singed by this fiery dart, wondering:

Why does failure drain me so dry of hope? What should I do when I’ve disappointed those around me, when sin grips both hands with steel chains?

Recently, I was blessed by the transparent honesty of Katie Davis Majors as she shares about brokenness in her latest book, Daring to Hope:

I realize more and more how conditioned I have been to be ashamed of my weakness. Somehow it is okay to attend to the brokenness in the lives of others, but to admit brokenness in our own homes, even in our own hearts? We have been told that this is downright embarrassing. What we know to be true, though, as we dig into Scripture, is that God is not ashamed of our weakness. . . .This place we are trained to run from—vulnerability—is so precious and beautiful to Him. . . . And my need for Jesus is beautiful to Him; it is what He wants.

The Unlikely Secret

Charles Spurgeon said, “God doesn’t need your strength; He has more than enough of His own. He asks for your weakness.”

Contrary to the lofty goals dreamed up in a perfectionist’s brain, failing isn’t the worst thing that could happen. Genuine failure happens whenever we neglect to seek God’s forgiveness and give Him our every weakness those times we do fall short.

I realize this is overwhelming. It isn’t easy to wear defeat when we struggle so hard to do things the right way. It’s frustrating when that time and energy is seemingly wasted—again and again.

That brings us to a question: Why is it necessary for perfectionists to own our inadequacy?

It is crucial and necessary to admit our inadequacy if our flaws are to be properly handled because when a person can do nothing but cry to Jesus for help, it proves the very best place—a place where fresh healing can splash over the joy-deprived ground of our souls, restoring all the weariness with His strength.

When we realize this secret, we’ll be free.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps. 73:26).

Hope for Future Flaws

If you’re a perfectionist, please learn from my mistakes. I’ve struggled with it for so many years and don’t want either of us to stay there.

Let’s do something, together. From today on, let’s promise:

  • We won’t be ashamed of or overwhelmed by our weaknesses.
  • We won’t beat ourselves up.
  • We won’t pressure ourselves to maintain unhealthy, unachievable standards by imposing perfection on our imperfect selves.
  • We will handle each flaw that arises by giving it to God.
  • We will start finding our perfection in Him alone.

What secrets have you discovered to handle perfectionism? Let’s talk about them in the comments below!

PS: This post was originally published here.

About Author

Moriah Simonowich

Moriah is a twenty-one-year-old who loves porch swings, wide open skies, lattes, lab puppies, and the crispness of October. Writing is like oxygen to her heart. In addition to fulfilling her role as a staff writer at Top Christian Books, she writes for her column Hope for Weary Hearts at PURSUE Magazine. You can connect with Moriah on her blog, delightinginhim.com, and social media accounts @moriahsauthor.

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  • Brynna Rice

    Yes! As a friend of mine once told me, we are all in need of God’s grace everyday – not just from Him to give to others, but from Him to give to ourselves. The Lord’s mercies are new every morning, and He freely gives grace to everyone who believes in Him – even imperfect me.

    Instead of beating myself up over failures to reach impossible heights, I’m learning to give every part of my sky-high hopes and dreams to Christ. And He will change them not into more “perfection”, but into what is His perfect will for me.

  • genesis herrera

    This hits home for me so hard. Every single day I struggle with the need to be this perfect daughter of Christ. I pray and fight so hard for this to go away, but it doesn’t. Trying to be perfect pushes me away from God, only to have me running back to him from a farther distance. The fear that if I mess up so drastically that God will no longer love me, terrifies me, fueling the need to be perfect. While I know that’s not true and I have to repeat that to myself daily, the fear is still there and the need to be perfect is still there to. It’s overall tiring and exhausting, but it’s hard to stop because it feels like once of when your rested up…your right back to chasing perfection your never going to reach. If anyone is reading this, please pray for me. I could really use it and I’m trying to stop, but it’s extremely hard to. Thanks <3

    • Definitely praying for you, friend. 💗 I came across a quote today by Charles Spurgeon that might be of some encouragement to your heart—I know it helped me breathe a sigh of relief…

      “We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.”

      • genesis herrera

        Thank you so much for your prayers and the quote. <3 It means a lot to me 🙂

  • Jenn D

    Thank you so much for this! I copied some of the “hope for future flaws” section into my journal, I definitely needed this today.

  • Nakisha Hicks

    Thank you for sharing. I have too struggled for years with perfectionism. I asked the Father what was wrong with me in order for Him to make what wrong right. And He led me to perfectionism. I will stand with you by His grace to overcome perfectionism. Claiming healing before the Father manifest His glory in us. Hallelujah. Amen.

  • Deborah Nwanguma

    Wow.

    Guess what?

    This message was so timeous for me.

    I was on the verge of beating myself up for a recent mess up.

    I thank God for this message.

    I am truly blessed. So blessed.

    Thanks

    • Rejoicing this article was timely and encouraging. Thanks for reading, Deborah! Keep pressing on.💗

  • I love your articles, Moriah. They are always so full of God’s truth!

  • Catherine

    This was sooo good. I struggle with perfectionism and it is a hard struggle! I struggle with things from handwriting to makeup to my family. My family is far from perfect but I expect them to be perfect all the time. I need to learn to give them some grace. Do you have any scripture or advice for me?

  • Nakisha Hicks

    Today, I am in tears of the hurt and pain in which perfectionism has caused in my life and also the lives of those I love. Please keep me in prayers. This one hurt. 😔