When Believers Stumble: Perfectionism

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PerfectionistRecently, I confessed that I was fed-up with sports and was probably going to skip the Olympics this year, even though I love the Winter games. Well, my wife was so enthusiastic about them that I got sucked back in and have watched just about every second of the prime time broadcast. My initial complaint is the same, but one interview has made me rethink my position on sports.

A few nights ago, Apolo Ohno won bronze in a short track speedskating race. Bob Costas spoke to him afterwards and you could feel the tension in the air before the interview because it was a bronze medal around Ohno’s neck, not a gold. But immediately Ohno noted that in his discipline anything can happen on any day; any medal was a great accomplishment, not just gold. And he meant it, too. He was excited to win bronze and you could see it on his face.

You can see that on the faces of a lot of other athletes, too, especially the European skiers. Silver and bronze aren’t considered losses, especially to folks who are out there on the World Cup circuit day in and day out. You’re on fire one day and the next you’re looking to just get down the mountain.

The Wall Street Journal had an intriguing article last week in their sports section (betcha didn’t know they had one), covering the most successful NASCAR racers. Everyone talks about Richard Petty’s greatness, but Petty only won a race every 0.169 starts. Jeff Gordon is the modern leader with a 0.167 winning average. In baseball, a batting average like that would get a you a trip to the minors, but here it’s the epitome of success—one time in six.

We Americans love a winner. Greatness is our national drug. Right now there’s a TV show (that a lot of Christians are commenting on) that takes a couple dozen singers and whittles their numbers down until one is left standing. It’s not called American Idol for no reason, is it? That kind of show epitomizes everything we believe in America. Our attitude is the same as a famous line from the movie The Highlander: There can be only one.

The Bible has this to say:

Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.
—Ecclesiastes 9:11 ESV

Apolo Ohno may have been the fastest guy on the track, but he didn’t place first that day. Jeff Gordon loses five races for every one he wins.

One of the disturbing trends in Christianity that I don’t remember seeing growing up is this emphasis on “Christian Excellence.” I blogged about this a few months ago, but wanted to return to it because it’s such an insidious problem. Our emphasis on excellence, in many cases, turns out to be a form of veiled perfectionism, a trait I find in more Christians than in non-Christians.

The late Christian musician Keith Green still ministers to me. One of my favorite songs of his is “When I Hear the Praises Start”:

My son, my son, why are you striving?
You can’t add one thing to what’s been done for you;
I did it all while I was dying.
Rest in your faith, my peace will come to you.

The sad truth in the lives of many Christians today is that striving is what we’re all about. We’re expending considerable energy attempting to win every race, no matter how small, even if that race has no spiritual significance. We not only want to have a gold star on our Sunday School attendance chart, but we want the rest of the box the gold star came in, even if that means no one else gets one.

Our obsession with being perfect can be seen in your average Christian bookstore (and I’m cueing up a “More Cowbell Award” for Christian bookstores in the days ahead.) The bestseller list consists of one tome on being successful after another. Your marriage must be perfect. Your finances must be perfect. Your children must be perfect—and they must be homeschooled because only homeschooling is the perfect way to the perfect college and the perfect career. The irony is that the rest of the bestsellers consist of books consoling Christians when everything doesn’t turn out perfect: the perfect church splits, the perfect daughter dies in a car wreck, the perfect husband’s career goes awry, the perfect wife struggles with an imperfect eating disorder while trying to be perfect. It’s either Your Best Life Now or it’s Every Man’s Battle. God help us!

Can’t we see the snare in this? How many Christians have we known who kept up the illusion of perfection, only to crash and burn in a conflagration that torched dozens of lives around them?

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God….
—Romans 3:23 ESV

I’m not certain the one at the middle of the flaming wreck believed that verse or what comes after it. The ellipses are a clue that there’s more:

…and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.
—Romans 3:24-27 ESV

Did you catch that little word “grace” in there? Five letters, but it means so much! It not only gives life, but it destroys our boasting in any self-righteous perfection we’ve created around us.

But Dan, you say, doesn’t the Bible include this?

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
—Matthew 5:48 ESV

That’s the “life verse” of Christian perfectionists and it’s followed by this one:

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.
—2 Corinthians 13:5a ESV

You have to live in a cave to miss that medical authorities are wild about self-examination. For women there are self-performed breast exams and for men testicular. A sensitive kind of test, for sure, and certainly a good idea to do. But the proper context for them is key. You wouldn’t do a self-exam like that in the middle of a crowded shopping mall, right? You’d wind up in jail if you did!

Too many of us have put ourselves in a jail of perfectionism by improper examination. We have the Bible in one hand—and that’s as far as many perfectionists go—but we also need to have God’s grace in the other. Grace is the curtain around us that allows for proper self-examination. It’s also the chemotherapy we need when the Lord illuminates cancer in our souls.

There are two ways that we tend to react to this examination. We can either “let go and let God” deal with it, or we can start a disciplined chipping away at revealed sin. The sanctification process for people tends to be one or the other. Disciplined people like the idea of “working out their salvation” while others go for the more “without Him we can do nothing” approach that throws more weight onto God to do the work.

Perfectionists tend to camp out on the side of rolling up their sleeves and making themselves better. More prayer. More Bible study. More, more, more. And while they may like it that way, too often they’ve assumed the role of God in the sanctification process. Scratch a Christian perfectionist and you tend to find underneath a person who hates himself one second and loves himself for always being “righteous” the next. I understand that’s a gross simplification, but it holds true for many Christians stuck in a pattern of “it’s never enough.”

The perfectionist Christian struggles in a few areas:

    Fear of failure. Remember Romans 3:23. Perfectionists are so loathe to fail that they take control of their lives away from God and never learn from their mistakes. So much for grace! And so much for sanctification, because if God disciplines us through our mistakes, then we’ll never learn any deeper lessons if we never wind up in the dirt once in a while.Fear of non-acceptance. That’s a perfectly legitimate fear for Christians in legalistic churches. While the Church is charged with disciplining the unrepentant, repentance is not normally the issue for perfectionists—it’s accepting grace. If you’re a Christian stuck in a church where you think you’ll be savaged if you confess your sins, then you’re in the wrong church.

Fear of losing control. Who’s in control, the perfectionist or God? Who does a better job? Come to the cross; dying to self is a good thing.

“Should-ing” on others. Perfectionists use the word “should” like a battering ram, always telling people what they must do, particularly themselves. Often that thing that “should” be done is not necessarily in keeping with God’s idea of what must be done.

To all of this God speaks grace. Or as Paul writes:

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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
—2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV

To the perfectionist, there is nothing so humiliating as weakness, but weakness is the very thing that is needful! Perfectionists too often create for themselves a Christianity of rules without the relationship with God. The Gospel becomes a duty rather than the core of a relationship.

What’s the fix? Letting God shoulder some of that load. We know the first part of this next verse by heart, but do the perfectionists out there see that word again?

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
—Philippians 1:6-7 ESV

We are partakers of grace. Christ speaks grace to strivers, saying that He will be faithful to complete His good work in us if we let Him.

If we’re perfectionists, if only the gold medal is good enough, it’s time to lay ourselves down and let God work. Too much of our own work can often counter what God is trying to do. If we’ve got our future sanctification journey planned out on a timeline, today’s entry on that timeline says, “Burn the timeline.” It’s one thing to be disciplined, which I am all for, and another to let that discipline crowd out the Savior.

Don’t think that happens? More often than not the guy or gal in church on Sunday with the perpetual long face is the perfectionist who lost track of the Lord amid the duty. They’ve become a sort of spiritual Martha running around doing Christian works because they are supposed to; that’s just legalism in a holy disguise. Perfectionists need to slow down and sit at the feet of Jesus.

Sometimes “Let go and let God” isn’t a cliché.

28 thoughts on “When Believers Stumble: Perfectionism

  1. Deb

    I’ve seen a microcosm of this in the Christian publishing world where awards are concerned. At a banquet where one of my books was a finalist, but didn’t take the big prize, a few people actually came up to CONSOLE me afterwards. Here I was, overwhelmed with delight to have been one of the top three contenders, but some saw anyone who didn’t take away first prize as “losers” in need of consolation.

    I do believe Christian craftsmen should strive for excellence, but not at the expense of dependence on God for the outcome. I even see the value of awards, giving us a way to recognize excellence, and giving us standards and goals to strive for. As one who tends toward laziness rather than perfectionism, I need goals.

    But when we give out awards, we must recognize that just because there are winners doesn’t make everyone else losers.

  2. Dan, so often we “see” ourselves as human doings as opposed to human beings. This so often happens when we are immature and/or underdeveloped in our relationship with the Lord Jesus. It seems to me that once we have accepted the basic tenants of Christianity, that everything else is an outworking of our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

  3. Lew

    I used to sing in a newly minted barbershop chorus. With only 17 men and less than a year of experience under our belts, we went to our first regional contest. And we won! Not because we had the best score (we had the Nth best score), but because when the curtain closed, we knew that we had done the best performance that we were capable of doing at that time. What joy! What satisfaction!

    Later during the weekend we had occasion to relate our experience and hear veteran singers with dozens of medals relate how they had endured the bitterness of the opposite scenario — having a medal placed around their necks but knowing that their individual or collective performance (despite being “better” than the other competitors) fell far short of what they knew they we capable of doing.

    That’s why I love sports — there are no second takes, no “do overs”, no excuses. And if you see it through the eyes of the performers, there are WAY more winners than just the three with medals around their necks. I watch the Ironman contests not to see the amazing pros who finish first, but to see the real people, like you and me, who give it everything they’ve got to finish in the dark when the stands are empty and sponsors have long gone home — that’s winning, that’s growing, that’s awesome!

  4. Ken Fields

    Dan,

    I’m not sure I understand the “let go and let God” comment at the end of your post, which tends to mean something other than daily dependence upon God’s grace rather than our performance (this is only a minor objection!!).

    Yet, I agree with your premise. Not too long ago, a church member asked me about the best biblical description of the Christian life. After a bit of thought, I responded with Romans 7…and Paul’s description of his war with perfectionism and his own sinfulness. I am convinced that this is reality for the Christian…the desire to be perfect, yet falling so far short. The hope amid this reality is found in the first verse of the next chapter, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Being rescued from condemnation isn’t based on my perfection (or work), but Christ’s!

    Thanks, Dan, for the reminder, I needed it!

  5. don

    I’ve been trying to respond, but I can’t find just the perfect words….

    Seriously, this is a great reminder that, just like in finding a job, it’s not what you do, it’s who you know.

    thanks

  6. Standing_Firm

    Dan,
    This was a thought provoking and edifying post for me, thank you.

    I grew up as a swimmer who thrived on the competitive nature of the sport, competition with oneself is the primary objective even when you are on a team because you are out to better your performance time wise in order to qualify for bigger and better events. For 10+ years I spent 5 hours a day swimming laps in one form or another. To this day I don�t really know how to relax in a pool. I love the feel of slicing through the water (even though now I slice a lot less)

    Sometimes this has been translated into my walk with my Lord. Sort of like an impatience to understand everything RIGHT NOW and working at it �til I get it right! Of course, our Father doesn’t respond to demands, begging, or cajoling but we do learn through practice, practice, practice. Practice has taught me technique; technique tells me that life is more about quality rather than quantity; and it is about the journey and how much love you leave in your wake. He has shown me not to envy anyone else�s walk because what we see on the outside is just that, the outside, and we do not know the inner workings or technique of anyone else. He perfects us through love, grace and mercy and there just isn�t a healthy competition in those areas.

  7. Deb,

    When I was 13, I was on a bowling team that won our elementary school division. It was my first team experience. That was great, but next year we moved into the high school league. Then the astonishing happened: As snotty-nosed 14-yr. olds, the five of us won the high school division our first year in that competitive league. The older kids ground their teeth because the youngest team out of the fifteen teams had smashed all the others.

    At the same time, I won my school’s spelling bee. Winning word? “PARQUET,” as in the flooring. (Perfectionists tend to remember those details.)

    Being young and naive, I thought it would always be like this. Then as 15-yr. olds, puberty hit our team hard and we got whacked with a case of “uncoordinitis.” Suddenly, the ball went everywhere but where we pointed it. We came in second to last out of fifteen teams. Same team members, but nowhere near the same results.

    Sometimes you get so used to winning that losing feels like the end of the world. I wasn’t familiar with losing.

    My dad was one of those “Anything less than an ‘A’ is failure” kind of people, so I always did well in school—if for no other reason than to avoid Dad’s withering stare. When I got a “C” in phys ed that same year as I got hit with uncoordinitis, I was beside myself. I’d always been an “A” student, even in phys ed, so that and the bowling team meltdown was tough to take. That set me on a course of perfectionism that I struggle with even today.

    Learning to live with less than 1st place is a concept some people just can’t do. Our culture loves winners. I’ve gotten less perfectionistic in the last decade after a series of brutal failures, but I still found myself glorying just a little too much in winning my church’s chili cookoff.

    It’s hard to fight against the system.

  8. Ken,

    The “Let go and let God” refers back to the fact that too many of us try to control our lives, rather than letting God be in charge. That phrase is a good counter to perfectionism.

  9. Dan McGowan

    Dan, this is such a great commentary on the church – and so true…

    I see this CONSTANTLY in the my area of quasi-expertise – “the music and worship empire” or, as the comman man knows it, “worship.”

    Talk about “American Idol” – wow… WHO will be the NEXT BIG “Worship ARTIST” we can all COPY in our church services to PROVE that we REALLY ARE good musicians? What three “hip” praise songs will we master to perfection – so they sound JUST LIKE the CD from which we “borrowed” them? (by the way, if that’s what you’re going for – just PLAY the CD – you don’t even NEED musicians…)

    What we forget is that not only are we not ABLE to be “perfect” – but – WE DON’T NEED TO BE!!!!!!!! We are ALREADY “perfect” in Christ – and his one time, single, forever sacrifice, took care of that for me. Now, I can, as you say, REST in Him and (dare I say this) ENJOY the Christian life!

    In other words – I can LIVE ABUNDANTLY!

    What a novel concept!

    I’ll be linking to this blog from mine if you don’t mind.

  10. Anonymous

    Here’s my problem with perfectionism.

    To be less than perfect is to sin, right? That’s literally what “sin” means, right?

    I confess sin when it happens, of course. But *confession* is meaningless without repentence, wouldn’t you agree?

    Therefore it isn’t enough to merely confess it. If I’m serious about *repenting*, I also have to turn away from it. I also have to take steps to put it aside.

    The logical response of all this is that if I am not striving for perfection, every day in every way, then I am deliberately choosing to remain in the sin that I confessed. And we know what Hebrews has to say about people who deliberately keep on sinning. We also know what 1 John has to say about “no one who lives in him will keep on sinning” (1 John 3:6).

    Therefore I strive against sin every day. I don’t mind saying it’s exhausting. I know that what I’m doing is wrong, but I don’t know *how* it’s wrong.

    BTW, I have discovered in my life that “let go and let God” simply does not work. There are sins in my life that — if I gave into them — would totally and irreparably destroy my life in this world. Ask anyone in an “Anonymous” group — addiction to alcohol, or sex, or drugs, or gambling doesn’t simply go away because you pray. It has to be directly faced and overcome.

    The thing is I think BOTH approaches you discuss are part of the ideal solution. A person who relies totally on grace but does nothing to put his sinful nature to death is running contrary to the Bible, which specifically demands action by the believer against the sin in his life (Romans 8:13). OTOH, a person who depends on works and loses sight of grace has lost the entire point of salvation.

    What I need … what I think most people need — is a reconciliation of these two points of view. Both grace and striving are part of the Christian life. We do nothing without prayer, but prayer alone accomplishes little. We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that *is* alone, as Martin Luther himself said.

    There must be a balance between the two extremes. But I do not know what this balance is and I am overbalanced on the works side. And because I’ve seen what happens to the people around me when I slack off, I will probably continue to be. But I desperately crave that balance.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.

    • Dorothea

      Thank you for your additional insights–I agree. If you get further insight on this struggle (e.g. a response from Dan) will you let me know?

  11. russn

    Dan,

    Thanks for this post — it has given me a lot to think about this evening…particularly in the area of fear of the Lord and how I’ve let things get in the way of appropriate fear of the Lord. I linked to this post tonight.

    Russ

  12. Your thoughts are very interesting…It certainly prevoked some thought on my part.

    I am a “perfectionist” and I know it…I’m not proud of that fact, but all too aware of it.

    I feel that’s there’s nothing wrong with disciplining yourself to make God #1 prority, through prayer, Bible Study, and worship.(As I’m sure most Christians would agree…)

    I think the difficult thing has always been: Leaving things at the altar (because as “Perfectionists” we never feel good enough!)

    There’s a Chorus:
    “Here am I – so unworthy of the blood,
    Unworthy of the blood;
    That sets me free…
    Here am I – so unworthy of the blood,
    And yet it flows for me…

  13. Anonymous

    Thank you for some excellent reminders. As an underachiever-turned-perfectionist (ah the need to feel one is “as good” as everyone else), I struggle with “should” all the time, and “ought to” and “supposed to”.

    Question: I love the writings of A.W. Tozer, but when I read him I feel like I am such a lame, pathetic, God-can’t-stand-my-ilk kind of Christian that I tend to give up more than press on. I see you like Tozer too. Any thoughts?

    Thank you.
    – A brother in FL

  14. Dee

    Thanks for the great pointers. I am a perfectionist, and you’re absolutely right on the dot, at least with me. Fear of failure, fear of rejection…that’s me. Problem is, the “let go and let God” is questionable in a situation when I’m always afraid I’ll let everyone down or that I’ll do something wrong and people won’t like me. If fear/perfectionism was an object, and God came down in human form–I’d give it all to him. Right away. But perfectionism…I have no idea how to get rid of it. Much goes back to childhood.

    I’m just so tired of pretending that everything’s all right when I live my life seeking approval and not wanting to make mistakes. I know that God loves me and my sins are forgiven, but people aren’t God. They don’t just forgive you. I don’t forgive myself easily if I make a mistake at work, for example. I’ve realized lately that people don’t like scared perfectionists, but would rather be friends with a calm person who learns from her mistakes. …But is that perfectionism again? Trying to change to not be a perfectionist to please other people?

    Sorry this is so long, but I’m searching the internet for some answers on how to not be perfectionist. How to do your best and learn from mistakes, instead of beat yourself over the head forever for it. Thanks for the article, though… 🙂

  15. Angelo

    Perfectionism hurts. It seriously does, especially when the perfectionist creates a paradox with which he can’t escape. I’m not as willing to write those long messages, but may I ask someone if God has shown to them the answer that Brian is asking?

    • Angela,

      Brian’s statement in principle is true: You can’t just lay down on a bed and snooze and expect to be a thriving disciple.

      But striving doesn’t lead to thriving, either.

      I believe the key is found in simplicity. Paring the faith down to the simplest core makes all the difference, and I believe it does a good job in curing people both of striving and snoozing.

      When asked for a simple explanation o f the Gospel, theologian J.I. Packer responded, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

      Trite? Not at all. I believe that is where we must get back to. Yes, it will require a little work to shed some of the craziness we’ve added onto the faith, but in the end, to have childlike faith is the key.

      Children don’t worry about the things adults do. They are less perfectionistic. They don’t kick themselves when they are down. They trust more and enjoy the simple things of life more. They live in the present, and not the past or future. They are rooted in the now.

      “Our striving would be losing,” Martin Luther wrote in “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” It’s true. The fully surrendered disciple learns to let go. To depend on God in a childlike way and tl live with no regrets.

      I’ve met some people like that in my life, though not many. Yet I can attest that those people are the happiest of all, for they have found the pearl of great price and are content. That’s where we need to be and we get there by letting go of striving nd letting God do what He said He would do in our lives. We just have to trust Him to do it in His time and in His way. As it says in Ecclesiastes, He makes all things beautiful in His time.

  16. Karen P.

    As a Christian perfectionist that so lost sight of God’s grace that I began cutting myself in self-hatred for the wrongs I couldn’t seem to stop and couldn’t ever forget, I really appreciated this blog. I am on a path to healing, learning to avoid the pride that says that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t enough and that I must somehow make up the difference, or that I am somehow above sinning like everyone else on earth and should be held to a higher standard.

    1John especially used to trip me up because of all of the verses on perfection, until I reread 1:8-2:2, especially 2:1: “Dear children, I write this so that you will not sin. But, if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father is our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” Of course, we are to strive to obedience, but when we fail, which we will, we need to let go of it, recognizing that it is already covered by Christ’s blood, and no amount of beating ourselves up will ever equal His sacrifice. If He removes our sin from us, we need to live like it is gone, pressing on, without constantly looking back. As Galatians 2:21 reminds me, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

    Thanks for writing this. I am glad I stumbled across it today. It encouraged me to keep resting in Christ’s grace and keep pursuing obedience without fear, knowing that if I fail, it’s already covered!

  17. TonyP.

    If only He understood how much I can help… 😉

    Another excellent post that is timely for me. I am one that constantly pushes for God to DO SOMETHING ABOUT…….

    Sigh….He never lets me be in charge… 🙂 (Thankfully He doesn’t cuz I didn’t do such a good job when I was)

  18. Shay

    thank you so much for this post. I’ve been struggling with depression and anxiety as a result of perfectionism and I hadn’t even factored in God’s place with me in this struggle. thank you.

  19. Paul

    Thank you for this post. I am right at this time back with the Lord for help in everything. This evening perfectionism struck me as my worst spiritual condition because it is actually pride. Saved 21 yrs ago at 45 yrs, I have been a self-hating, negative-minded, critical, judgemental, resentful…any sin you care to mention. Consequently, I have been so unhappy, so anti-social, lonely (because of inward critiquing of people), and finally, could not find a spouse (so perfectionistic that there was not a single woman on earth good enough for me). This is what perfectionism does to a person, believer or not.
    What you say is so true. Perfectionism turned me into a religious ‘Christian’ (an oxymoron, that),but, above all, since I could never be good enough, I stopped doing even the good and creative things I used to do before I got saved: writing, dancing, threatre, sports, socializing…and finally, stopped going to church ( since ‘everything was wrong with church’). I lost my sense of humor, and laughter. Finally, as my life deteriorated, and as I mis-understood, or misinterpreted the Word of God, I got to where I now not only was scared of God, but became suicidal in my thinking. Poverty enveloped me, so that I began to sleep on the floor, and beg for food (a former college lecturer, motivational speaker and discipleship teacher…!)

    Now I have been able to see, as the Lord begins a work of recovery (I am so hopeful!)in me, that, at some point, I dropped my relationship with Christ, and replaced it with my pedigree (I am born of rich parents), my high education, some impressive public appointments, a number of could -have-beens (as when I nearly was appointed as educational attache to the USA – I am a Kenyan), my rather gifted grasp of creative teaching effectiveness and and so on. In university as a fresher, I wrote a class essay that took the entire faculty by storm ( because of its brilliance) and which other faculties demanded to read. I never saw it again, but I never forgot it! These replaced my salvation, and sidelined Christ to irrelevance. Since I was such a brilliant mind, I could figure out my way out, yes? Dying to self never became a part of my new creation vocabulary, and I did not see myself as a child of God, but as a hated sort of distant nephew of God on the outer ring, watching the loved ones have fun with the Father while I shuddered in the cold outside.

    I had grown under constant comparison with my siblings, often taking their punishments, failed early in school (esp. in math) and developed a firm ‘ No good, no matter what I do’ mentality. Failure took over soon as I got saved. My wife divorced me inside ten months of marriage when I got saved. Then I lost my two daughters to a western nation, and I’ve no idea where they are. Failing as a son, a husband, a father, then a working man,and finally as a Christian, wrecked any remaining ability to live a normal life. Ironically, it fed into perfectionism. I began to live by – ‘ Until all circumstances, and conditions, and situation, concerning this matter..project…undertaking…whether marriage, business consulting, visiting some friends…all converge at the junction, I am not moving.’ But now this went further. I could not go to God because I had not prayed for the last fifteen years (except in some pathetic mumbling that had no purpose…except to please God and get him off my back). It seemed to me the only way would be for me to find some principle, or application, that would somehow appease for that fiffteen years. So, I would give up. I wanted to repent, but then, should’nt I have done that four years ago? So, I needed some way to satisfy God about that, then I would repent. But I could not repent before I did something about my lack of praise and worship, and I ‘could hear God screaming objections’ when I tried worshipping. It became very important for me to not hurt God, so I side-stepped around him, hoping he was not catching the stink around me. I could not do one thing because I had not done another. And that became the standard of my living. I can tell anyone reading this- it is hell.

    I became a great, secret coward, a liar, using my natural abilities to survive without working, gnashed my teeth at my poverty, and, still, would not turn to the Lord and say: “Father, it is all my fault.” Perfectionism is pride, and so destructive because it so appeals to its victim! A perfectionist – especially when he goes ‘spiritual’ (this is not the same as faith in Christ)- is a stone-waller, arguing his messiness out of any situation, and thinking that no one else is any the wiser.

    I finally, recently, turned to God, and said: ‘Father, whatever you have to do, do it. I don’t know the first thing I should do, and I don’t want to try it, for, I shall just get back to the same old cycle of selfism’. And even this was not my doing. I did not begin to call on the name of the Lord, and to pray, and to yearn for help, oh, no! I was in the deepest end of suicidal depression, and had planned on the day I would do it. It was the Father himself who broke through my insanity, and stopped me. He starts everyting, we don’t, and can’t. That is where I am now pitting all my faith, such as it is, tattered and stained.

    Perfectionism is pride – it is satanic in origin. It says: ‘I know I have a problem, but I won’t admit it, and I don’t want anyone near me. If I am left alone long enough, I will be okay – the problem, somehow, will evaporate.’ Now I know the one thing I need to know for my answer: Christ Jesus, my LIFE by faith. Now I am depending on the finished work of the cross, and now know, and believe, that the Blood of Jesus is All-Suffient for me, that I am loved and accepted, just as I am, that I can never do anything to attract God to me, nor commit too huge a sin as to lose my relationship with my Father through Jesus Christ. I am laying down, one by one, every burden I have carried, and asking the Holy Spirit to show me for who I really am, my heart, the self-centeredness and to help me walk with the Lord. I am keeping my mind on things of heaven, no longer over-concerned when, or whether, I get a job, or money. I just crave the peace and joy of Christ Jesus, and know, that any time, he could come for me. I am now beginning to smile again…to laugh again, even to hope! The thoughts of death have vanished, and I have a good feeling about myself (not self-esteem, but who I am in Christ…I keep saying to myself, “I am a child of God…” over and over again. It is all I have for my prayer, praise and worship. See? I bought a book today, “The Calvary Road”, and I am visiting encouraging blogs like this one (God bless you!). Finally, I long for him, which is the only thing He saved me for.

    May you all be most blessed. See you soon, in my Father’s house, with Christ Jesus.

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