The Lie of Perfectionism

Our wrestle with perfectionism finds its roots all the way back in Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve pursued what they thought would be a better life for themselves, rather than trusting God’s good and perfect will. Many of us still fight this battle today—so how might we reject the lies and false promises of perfectionism?

Topics : Life | The Gospel

Through our social media feeds, TV and the internet, society is constantly telling us that we should be unsatisfied with our current lives. If only we had the latest iPhone, a flawless physical appearance or a never-ending supply of money, our lives would be full of joy. The message is simple: What we have is not enough, and true joy would be found in having something “better”—the good life happens when everything is perfect. It’s an enticing message, but this “gospel” of perfectionism simply isn’t true, and it’s a lie we’ve been fighting since the beginning of time.

In the Beginning

To find the root of perfectionism, look all the way back to Genesis 3—to the actions of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Their one choice to eat the apple came from a desire to live on their own terms, independently from God. He gave them clear boundaries to live within, but the snake planted a seed of doubt in the mind of Eve. What if there was something better than what God had given them? With one choice, Adam and Eve pursued what they thought would be a better life. But since their actions went against God’s will, they actually lost much more than they gained. Adam and Eve sought joy in what they deemed to be good rather than trusting in the goodness of the God who had created them.

Like Adam and Eve, our obsession with perfection is rooted in a lack of trust in God. We tend to see the perceived deficits in our lives as a mistake rather than a purposeful decision made by our sovereign Creator. We tend to see our boundaries and limitations as holding us back from our fulfillment and flourishing. This cloudy perspective leads us to believe that our joy is linked to a life devoid of discomfort, suffering or dissatisfaction. Our hopes become grounded in pursuing fleeting moments of happiness—our “perfectionism”—rather than a God who is the only unwavering and eternal source of joy.

Trusting the Plan

As created beings, we can only thrive when we fully trust in the plans of our Creator. We have to learn to trust that if something in our life needs to be made better, our God (in His own time) will make it so. A.W. Tozer says it best, “God knows us better than we know ourselves, and He knows exactly what we need and when we need it.” Now this does not invalidate the sorrow and pain of our life situations—life can be hard—and it does not dismiss the need to pursue faithfulness in all that we do. But in the midst of hardship, and even failure, God has been, is and will always be good. Which means, no matter the season, our good God is always providing blessings for His children. (Phil. 4:19, James. 1:17, 2 Cor. 9:8). He is always exercising His perfect plan for you.

Combating Perfectionism

The truth is that the good life is not found in anything but God, which means the only way to combat the temptation of perfectionism is to cultivate a grateful heart, remembering the true source of joy we already have. When we choose to be thankful, we begin to recognize the ever present blessings of our loving and faithful God. Whether it’s an unexpected financial gift in the midst of a long-term illness or a great work friend at a job that’s mundane, tangible evidence of God’s love for us is everywhere. No matter how big or how small, these blessings are a reminder that God has not forgotten us and is working all things out for our good and ultimately His glory (Rom. 8:28).

Rejecting the lie of perfectionism will require us to live without the things our hearts may desire. But as we reorient ourselves to the truth of who God is we will learn to desire something greater—God Himself. May we grow to be men and women who set our hearts on God, finding our joy in Him and trusting that what He’s given us is not “just enough,” but perfect.