I Am a Perfectionist
September 13, 2018 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
I am a perfectionist. That’s not a big secret. And I’m not too proud of it either.
There is a positive side to being a perfectionist, but the ugly side tends to get more attention. Perfectionism can be harmful to relationships. It can be judgmental and overbearing and ungracious towards others, especially family. It can be arrogant and self-sufficient and thus neglectful of God.
The answer for the ugly side of perfectionism is not to lower one’s standards or become relaxed in one’s expectations. We’re called to be perfect and strive for excellence. This honors God (remember, there is a positive side to perfectionism).
The greatest problem of a perfectionist, and thus the source of all the ugliness, is misplaced trust or confidence. A perfectionist easily trusts in himself and puts his confidence in himself to achieve perfection. No human being can achieve perfection on their own.
The answer for the ugly side of perfectionism is to fight self-trust.
The writer of Hebrews speaks frequently about perfection. He states that Christ was made perfect through what he suffered (2:10). He highlights that the law is unable to make perfect anyone (10:1). He then tells us that Christ perfects his people (10:14). In these verses we begin to understand that there are at least three different ways to view perfection.
Purpose: to be perfect is to meet a goal. Jesus met the goal of being Savior through his sufferings. This is important to highlight because Jesus did not have any imperfections that needed “perfecting.” He needed to fulfill his mission or goal.
Ceremonial: to be perfect is to be acceptable before God. The writer of Hebrews does not speak about justification by faith like Paul does. But he does speak about being perfect before God. The writer emphatically says in 10:1 that the sacrifices of the law can never make perfect those who are drawing near to God. We need a more sufficient cleansing.
Ethical: to be perfect is to remove imperfections and conform to God’s standards. Closely tied to our ceremonial perfection is our need to be holy and righteous. Like Paul in Romans 8:3, Hebrews states the law is incapable of helping us achieve ethical perfection (7:19).
While Hebrews paints a bleak picture of our ability, through the law, of achieving perfection, nowhere do we find a “relaxing” of the standard. In fact the standard is reemphasized in 12:14, “Strive for…the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
What do we do? We’re called to perfection but pounded with our inability to be perfect.
To fight the ugliness of perfection, we need to fight self-trust. This is where the writer of Hebrews leads us. Don’t trust in yourself and your ability to obey the law. Trust in Christ. One of the most powerful verses in Hebrews is 10:14, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”
Christ perfects us in his death on the cross. He makes us ceremonially perfect. He makes us ethically perfect. Our purpose in life is perfected in Christ. Such delight and embracing of Christ for perfection both humbles us and makes us more pleasant with others while not compromising our call to be perfect.