As believers, we are all called to live a life bent on spiritual perfection. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48) For a lot of us that seems like a daunting goal to keep in our sights. It can keep us striving for more holiness, and wanting to please God by keeping his commandments, but for others the need for perfection only stresses us out and makes feel like failures when we don’t get it right. The former leads to the healthy pursuit of God, but the latter is more characteristic of a self-obsessed and self-critical form of perfection that is usually called perfectionism.
I don’t consider my perfectionism to be a reflection of my looking down on myself, but rather on my thinking too highly of myself. When I demand perfection, I commit an act of pride. “I should be ‘perfect,’ and if not then I am a failure.” It is putting the responsibility for my holiness, perfection, squarely on my shoulders instead on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. My perfectionism is pride because I mistakenly believe that I am different and that I should be better than others. But humility is the opposite of demanding perfection of yourself or others. When a person lives in humility they consider themselves unworthy of the grace of God because they know their sinfulness and His righteousness. And they don’t try to prove themselves to anyone, but God alone. If I could be perfect then I would have something to brag about, being the only human being besides Jesus himself to achieve perfection. But instead I have to remember that the Father says, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.””(2 cor 12:9) Not in attempting and executing perfection, but in weakness, in inability to do it all myself. And because of that, I, like Paul need to happily, boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
Humility is thanking God for your weaknesses, not trying to prove you don’t have them. “The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.” (James 1:9, NIV) Are you a perfectionist? Do you think that’s a good thing sometimes? Why or why not?