Perfectionism is an illness some of us don’t realize we have or of which aren’t trying to be cured. Unfortunately for those who have it we end up suffering. There are the two typical ways a person suffers: from our own tempted flesh and from the devil’s schemes. But how does either of them relate to perfectionism?
For starters, let’s address the fleshy aspect. A perfectionist, of course, strives for perfection in nearly every aspect of their lives. Even if they allow mistakes and failures to occur behind closed doors, to be flawed in the eyes of others can sometimes be overwhelming or terrifying. I have come to accept myself as odd by worldly standards (most INFP personality types on the Myers-Briggs scale feel this way), but I still struggle with making mistakes or admitting defeat when given a task I initially believed I could accomplish.
One of my main drives is when helping someone, I want to get it right. Admitting defeat isn’t an option because I don’t want to be the reason someone had to wait for a solution that wasn’t coming. I’m working on overcoming this fear of being a let-down or disappointment to others, but I still struggle with it. Again, this is only one of the reasons that cause my perfectionistic tendencies. All of those who suffer from this illness — if I may continue to call it that — have causes for it, just like strep is caused by a bacteria.
Doctors had to find the cause of strep before they ever came up with a cure. Patients had to be honest about their symptoms, admitting there was something wrong. Admittance, as it is said, is the first step to recovery. Even if you’re hoping to overcome what you’re facing with you and God alone, admittance is still the beginning of getting better. And, please, do not withhold or deny that perfectionism or whatever else you suspect is going on is an issue. Bottling it up never helps, it only prolongs it. It’s okay to say you’re not strong enough to continue to carry this weight. Jesus is right beside you, even if no else is. He promises never to leave us nor forsake us and promises to carry us onward with love.
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”Deuteronomy 31:8
“The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”Deuteronomy 1:30-31
The second aspect is one we don’t notice sneaking up on us until it already has it’s claws in us: the devil’s schemes. The devil is bent on stealing, killing, and destroying. He not only wants to destroy us but God as well and craves the torture of his opponents. He isn’t some pitchfork-carrying, pesky little figure we like to imagine — an image we were given from some cartoon or another. No, he was once an angel in Heaven. He presents himself as an angel of light. He is described as a roaring lion and an ancient dragon. While it is easy to spot his obvious schemes — such as encouraging murder in all forms — not all that he plans is obvious. The illness of perfectionism can be used quite well to his advantage and he is already profiting from it in the world.
It is easy to see the toll of vanity on Earth’s population when one looks for it. Boys and men are told if they aren’t strong enough or skilled enough to do this or that then what good are they? Teenage girls suffer the most from self-esteem issues because everyone around them tells them how they are to view themselves. Women are told they aren’t presentable unless they put an extreme amount of effort into their looks and, thus, several put on a thick mask every morning or try so hard to lose weight they starve themselves. The devil is telling the world through the “perfect” goals of vanity that no one will ever be good enough, but strive for it anyways. Because beauty is pain, right?
The Lord, however, tells us we are wonderfully made and are beautiful just the way we are. Make-up was not made to constantly hide our natural features. If worn, it was meant to be like that piece of jewelry or fancy dress one saves for special occasions. Losing weight wasn’t meant to come at the cost of starvation, but as a motivation to be healthy. The devil has used the world’s desires for “perfect” beauty to keep some focused on vanity rather than God and to bring others down with disappointment, self-ridicule, and shame. We were never meant to suffer these things; they are symptoms of perfectionism and weapons of the enemy.
I believe this is one of the reasons women are so hard on themselves. Eve and her daughters not only feel the guilt from what happened in the garden, but the serpent is also whispering a reminder that we should be ashamed. Yet, Jesus died so we may be free of that shame, and if we believe that, we should stop listening to the devil’s lies.
The devil tries to convince us we cannot defeat him nor overcome things like perfectionism that cause us to suffer. However, when we focus on Jesus we know that we may suffer now, but joy comes in the morning. Jesus has already defeated the devil and for those of us born again into His family we share in the victory. He has set us free from our chains of sin, guilt and shame included. He doesn’t call us to be perfect, He only calls us to follow Him. He will show us the way to overcome. He will protect us through our trials. We may suffer hardships now but He is right there with us. Never forget, three men had to sit in the fire until the king said enough, but the Lord was with them through it all.
“Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, ‘Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?’ They replied, ‘Certainly, Your Majesty.’ He said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’ Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!’ So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.”Daniel 3:24-27
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”1 Corinthians 15:57-58
Song recommendation: ‘Your Love Never Fails” by Jesus Culture