Wednesday, May 16, 2012


This post is for those of us that have been known to struggle with perfectionism. (For those that can't relate, feel free to continue reading - it may help you relate to someone in your life & learn how to love people like me).

The Lord brought something to mind this morning that I haven't thought about in a while. It was an epiphany of sorts that He gave my heart a few years back, and one that He's been helping me 'walk out' ever since.

It was this:

That there is a fine line between striving for excellence and perfectionism.

Striving for excellence seeks God's glory and fame, and perfectionism seeks my  personal pursuit for ______________ (acclaim, recognition, sense of worth, control, etc.)

When it's laid out there like that, it seems pretty straight forward, as though there is a clear distinction.

But "the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" - Jeremiah 17:9

Often times, we don't know the motive behind what we do, pursue, seek for, desire after.

We can feel as though we're striving for a noble cause, like justice, situations where things are fair and right. (who would argue against a pursuit for that?)


a closer look at the heart might reveal that at the root of it, it is really a pursuit of my rights, a sense of fairness for how I've been wronged, etc.

(Of course, I'm not talking about social injustices such as human trafficking or other awful atrocities like this. I'm talking about, in comparison, the minor things we face, such as being passed over for the promotion at work, or someone else is recognized for an effort we made, etc.)

In this example, we're ignoring the fact that God has called us to a life of surrender, of laying down our rights and desires for His Will. And the very situation that we're in an uproar about in our life personally may be the very thing God has orchestrated to form in us a better sense of submission to Him, trust in His ways, and humility.

The point I'm getting at is that it can be hard sometimes to really recognize the difference between these two pursuits. And as sheep, we easily wander. We don't know the way we need to go, really on any given day, and need to constantly be seeking the Great Shepherd of our souls (1 Peter 2:25), to walk with Him daily so that He can help us navigate the curvy pathways of our hearts. Only Jesus can help us avoid the pitfalls of our selfish nature, which we will continue to struggle with until He comes back and we go Home.

One example of how this can easily play out in my life is this:

I struggle with trust. It has never come naturally or easily. Thankfully God has graciously been changing this about me, but it is still not a strength of mine. So, in seeking excellence for God, perhaps in the form of planning a ministry event, it can easily become more about me wanting to control how things play out (due to fear of how things will go if all the bases aren't covered, all the 'T's aren't crossed) than trusting if I do my best to be obedient, to plan and prepare, that the results are up to God. In a subtle way, when I choose to try to control instead of trust, I'm saying that God somehow needs me to accomplish certain things in order for Him to do His thing. (HA!) That is one of the most ridiculous lies I've ever heard, but until it's brought out into the light, we can go on living and acting this way, not knowing that it's somewhere deep in our hearts. We go about living lives that contradict what we say we believe.

So, let's expose this lie for what it is! Let's denounce the idea that we somehow have to enthrone our efforts, our way of doing things, our preferences (in other words, ourselves!), and let's allow the only One worthy of our worship to take His rightful place in our hearts!

I read this yesterday, and feel it's one way we can keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, not on ourselves and what we feel we need to do.

Romans 12:3 (MSG), "Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it's important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him."

So how do we  1) recognize this in ourselves, and 2)combat this lie?

A good litmus test to know which of these two your heart is pursuing is to look at our response when things don't go as expected.

Are we grieved because we feel as though it was a distraction from God,
are we frustrated because we feel it's something that will look bad on us?

Here's a few distinctions to help you gauge where your heart may be regarding this issue.

  • Perfectionism has an idea of what the end product will look like, and gets upset when that doesn't materialize. (Focus is on the results)

  • Seeking excellence seeks to do the best with what God has given you, and leaves the results up to God. (Focus is on God, leaving the end product to Him)
  • Perfectionism can lead to anxiety, if things don't go as planned, as though something has gone terribly wrong. It can lead to doubting God's sovereignty and control.
  • Seeking excellence recognizes that His ways are not my ways (Isaiah 55:8) and knows that what can sometimes look like a disaster to me can be the very thing that God uses to reveal His beautiful, redemptive work. (I'm sure no one felt that Christ's crucifixion, at the time, was the right thing that needed to happen.)
  • Perfectionism can be about building my own self-image, trying to control how others perceive me, what I'm capable of, and is pretty much all about me. It can take all my time and energy and distract me from other important things around me.
  • Seeking excellence is about representing God has His child, as part of His family. It's about 'living a life worthy of the calling I've received' (Philippians 1:27), showing reverence for Who God is and that He deserves my best efforts. Ultimately, it's all about what God.
I wish I had a way to wrap this up with a pretty little bow, but I guess I'll just leave you where I'm at myself - just meditating on this and hoping that the truth of it continues to seek down into my heart. 

We were made to worship God and to be in relationship with Him. We were made for His glory, so let's make this life about how we can make Him known.

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

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