Perfection Paralysis

Deep down in the soul is the joy and the warmth of a heart that longs to express affection

… but has been suppressed by perfection.

Perfection asks for control, when Grace asks for surrender.
Perfection asks for autonomy, when Grace asks for abandon.
Perfection asks you to be completed, while Grace completes.
Perfections asks for presentation, while Grace asks for presence.
Perfection paralyses, Grace pardons.
Perfection binds, Grace frees.

As someone who has greatly suffered the plague of perfectionism, I have developed a strong ability to think critically. Of course, the majority of this criticism is self-directed and, as I have realised, self-destructive. Instead of preaching the gospel to my heart in this particular area, I would claim the gospel over other areas, but proceed to condemn myself and mercilessly, unrelentingly, repent for my sins … (as though I were not already forgiven!).

Oh… the horrors of trying to serve two masters.
Perfection and Jesus.
The two do not at all agree.

One condemns with countless sin – pointing to all the areas you are falling short, all the ways you fail to measure up to his glorious standard. This voice reminds you that you aren’t worthy of approaching God’s throne. This voice chooses confession, repentance, confession, repentance, and forgets freedom, forgets praise, forgets grace.

The other voice is full of compassion and slow to anger. This voice points to the Father, whose love bears all things and whose justice is righteous. This is the voice of truth, the word of life for those who listen.  This voice embraces the finished work of Jesus on the cross. This voice grapples with the gospel, translating the temporal to the eternal. This voice frees us to succeed – not in our own merit, but by Jesus’ victory.

As long as we listen to the idol of perfection, we will remain in judgement-laden grief over our failings, instead of grace-centred hope. For while God grieves sin, he didn’t send his one and only Son into the world to suffer a bloody death so that we could remain plagued in fear. See, Jesus knew what – or rather, who – to fear.  Jesus’ sacrificed worldly standards for a greater one; he rightly acknowledged God’s authority, sovereignty and glory.

Jesus’ victory was surrender, submitting to his Father’s will.

Godly success doesn’t make sense, but it is a success that is received, not achieved. This is salvation, not a stamp of our failings, but a seal of Jesus’ precious blood, his love offering. His one act of righteousness secured eternal success, bringing justification and life for all men (Romans 5:18). His obedience was perfect, so that we can have peace with God.

See repentance is turning from sin and turning to God, turning from failure and turning to God’s power in our weakness. For the ego is not secured by success, just as our ego shouldn’t be shattered by failure.

Why hinge our hope on success, when we can be secure in Christ?

I have come to realise that the biggest opportunity of all is to fail. 

Failure challenges character, but it produces perseverance.

Falling short strengthens my faith, as it reveals my need for a Saviour. 

Do you fear failure?  What type of failure?  Why are we ok if we fail in some areas, but not others? 

Failure comes with breakage. Splintered hope.

Failure is a good thing when we realise our own inability. It leads us to the one who is able. He knows our weakness. And he assures us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

After striving for perfection for so many years, I have come to realise Jesus’ sufficiency. The focus is not on the perfection or imperfection of me, but in the perfection of Christ, who stands before the One who knows me intimately. The God who wired me, who knows my perfectionist tendencies, but who loves me anyway. Whose Son is ENOUGH, whose grace is ENOUGH, and whose blood enabled me to draw near to God, to receive the Spirit which gives life.

So in light of my position as ‘saved’ in place of ‘successful’, I strive for purity not for perfection.

I do not race to win the world. I run to lose the world.

Seeking to be pure heart, I place Christ at the core.

Perfection does not claim my heart anymore.

No more fear or love of it; I choose to fear and love him in it’s place. No more will the fear of failure reign in my heart, because through faith and by grace Jesus is Lord of my heart. No more will success stand as a measure of my worth, for the statutes of the Lord shatter the statues of this world.

Perfection, you cannot paralyse me. His wounds have won. I am healed. The Spirit of the Living God is at work in and through me. I am a God-fearing and grace-cheering follower of the King of Kings. I no longer submit to this yoke of slavery, but surrender to the Lord my God. He releases me from the cage of perfection. I am free from captivity.

” We are free to fail. Because of Jesus, we can be free from the cages of other people’s expectations, demands, yokes, and judgements – even our own. This isn’t about getting it perfect, dear one. We are loved, forgiven, embraced; we live under grace, not under judgement. It sets us free from perfectionism, which is a terrible prison. It sets us free even to fail” – Stasi Eldredge

Respond from the Heart