Help! I’m a Perfectionist
I feel you. Seriously, I do. I am a recovering perfectionist. Not sure if there is such a thing, but this is just how I have come to speak of my experience.
Looking back on my life, my perfectionistic complex began to be formed in me in my late childhood and adolescent years. Unbeknownst to him, my late father unintentionally had a great deal to do with it. Of course, Dad didn’t expect me or any of my other siblings to be perfect, but often times it felt that way because he was a highly disciplined man, who tended to be heavy on parental training, accountability and correction and light on praise. I believe this was due in large part to him being a military man (enlisted as a teenager, served tours of duty in Korea and Vietnam, and eventually retired as a Master Sergeant). Gratefully, the Lord Jesus saved my father and developed tenderness in his life and parenting, which took some of the edge off of his toughness. But by that time, perfectionism had already begun to take root in my soul, producing all types of rotten fruit: overly critical (of others and of myself), impatient, intolerant, and incorrigible (As a perfectionist, who wants to be corrected? To accept it would be an admission of imperfection. So we tend to act out in ways to dodge or deflect it: defensive, dismissive, blaming others, etc.).
Is there any help for those of us who are redeemed but at times still have to deal with this issue, particularly as it relates to its negative affect on our relationships? What can we do when this monster tries to rear its ugly head? Two quick pointers:
1. Realize your dignity and depravity
God made humanity in His image. We are consequently valuable to God and should be viewed as such by each other. Therefore, when it comes to others, no matter how imperfect they may be you should still afford them the dignity they are due simply because they have been created by God.
Yes, we all have dignity, but we are also depraved. What this simply means is that we are all sinful. As perfectionists, we need to constantly remain aware of our “jacked-upness” (Don’t bother going to the dictionary; I just made that word up.), especially when we encounter people who sin differently than we do or who may still struggle with a sin that we may currently be experiencing freedom from.
Realizing these two truths in our personal lives will help us to not be so quick to harshly judge others, become impatient with other people’s failings, etc.
2. Remember God’s great mercy towards you in Christ Jesus
When you and I in prayerful dependence recall how God in Christ demonstrated His love toward us even while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8), as well as how He continues to be patient, gracious, and merciful towards us even though we still sin, our attitudes and actions towards others will exhibit that same extravagant love.