The Problem With Perfectionism

So often as Christians we get wrapped up in our own imperfections. We messed this up, or could’ve done that better, or don’t feel adequate enough to do this big thing for God. We can get so caught up, in ourselves really, that we lose sight of God. We get this narrow tunnel vision; everything is dialed in to all our problems, our imperfections. Completely focused on the speck in our eye, studying it in every detail, we pray, and pray, and pray, wanting God to make us stronger, better. We want Him to make us the perfect Christian to do great things for Him; we want God to make us His little superhero. We want to be rid of our little imperfections, rid of our broken past, rid of every blemish we have.

Our very lives can become a never-ending search for perfection. Our reason why is totally justified though, right? We just want to give God our best! The problem with that reasoning is that our best amounts to a bunch of filthy rags. (Romans 3:10, Isaiah 64:6)  But the good news is that God already took your worst, and gave you His best.  (Romans 5:6-8) By His grace, we don’t have to work ourselves to death to prove how “good” we are to God.  God takes us in our brokenness and weakness and gives us His perfection and His strength! And we have no business trying to “improve” what only God can give. We will never be perfect, that’s a fact, but that’s okay because in Jesus we are whole.

Now let’s be honest, the point of life is not being perfect. Sometimes we act like it is, but it’s really not. Our lives are meant to glorify God, even with our imperfections! In fact, the Bible says to boast in our weaknesses, because God’s power is made perfect in weakness!

“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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

We want God to just make us perfect, but maybe He already did. Maybe this frail, weak form that we have, given wholly to God, is exactly what He desires to use to have the biggest impact on the world. Maybe we are imperfect for a reason, a higher reason, not to show off our humility or transparency, but to shine God’s power through us. We are only a lens through which people are meant to see Jesus. Maybe being imperfect is the perfect way to be a witness for God. Perhaps sharing an imperfect story of a life that had to be given to God for Him to redeem is more powerful than a polished story of someone who was okay from the start. I submit that God would rather have one totally broken, yet totally committed, follower than a million smiling faces who pretend to be perfect, and therefore who pretend to follow God. God can do more work in and through one heart that is willing to go to the dark and desperate place that nobody else will go than with a thousand people who look good, but are just in it for the popularity they can get.

Beyond just not criticizing ourselves for being imperfect, we need to think about how we look at our brothers and sisters in Christ. Christians can be some of the worst when it comes to this: we like to pick out the flaws in our fellow Christians. It’s a sad attempt at making ourselves look better. You know what happens when a Christian messes up publicly? Remember Josh Duggar? Instantly the Christians were saying that he gave God a bad name, and that he shouldn’t say he is a Christian. But that’s not right.  Christianity is not about being perfect, and it’s not about making yourself appear perfect. If we are honest, all of us give God a bad name; we all mess it up. And while some would say it’s worse because Josh was a public figure, I say it’s better! When Christians put up this front of perfection, it turns people off to the gospel.  It makes them feel like they aren’t good enough to be a part of it, like Christianity is a performance, and so then when they do see us mess up, they find us hypocritical.  They need to know the truth that we are the same as them: sinners. The difference is that we have a mediator with God, Jesus, who forgives us of our sins, and a comforter, the Holy Spirit, who helps us to not sin.  (2 Timothy 2:5-6, Hebrews 4:14-16, John 14:16-17, 25-26)

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” – 1 John 1:7-2:2

Instead of being perfectionists, let’s be imperfectionists, not striving for perfection in ourselves, but accepting our imperfection and embracing the perfection that God has given us. From there, we can stop picking out flaws in our brothers and sisters, and instead encourage and empower them in life. When our neighbors fall, let’s lift them up and restore them, for we know that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. We need to be boasting in our own weaknesses because that is where God’s power is made perfect. Share your broken story. That is where God can work the most powerfully, in you and in those around you.



    1. Hi Tyler,

      That’s a good question, thanks for asking!

      There are what I would call “natural imperfections” such as having bad eyesight, or experiencing sickness. These are things that just naturally happen, not because of something you did or didn’t do. They are definitely not sin; they’re just part of living a fallen world. As you face those kinds of challenges and flaws, you can’t let them define you or get caught up in hating them.

      Moving beyond that, there are imperfections in our actions. These can be things like misunderstanding something someone says, trying something new and not getting it right at first, or they can run a little deeper into our behavioral tendencies. I don’t know any verse that forbids leaving your socks laying on your bedroom floor. It’s probably not sinful to do, but it is also not ideal. You can work to improve areas like that in your life that aren’t the way you would like them to be, but don’t condemn yourself for having that tendency, and allow yourself room for grace that it is okay that you won’t always get it right as you are trying to improve.

      Sin is when we do not meet God’s standard of perfect holiness, when we disobey Him and go to other things instead of Him. Even so, there is grace for that too that He gave us through Jesus. He doesn’t shake His head at us when we mess up.

      “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” – Psalm 103:13-14

      “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16

      It is okay to struggle through learning how to get it right. That is what perfectionism doesn’t allow. Perfectionism says we have to be perfect, and it usually attempts to do so in its own strength. But the gospel says we aren’t perfect, and don’t have to be because Jesus was perfect where we couldn’t be, and He has paid the price for our sin.

      Sin goes directly against God’s Word. Imperfections are mistakes we make or things we see about us that aren’t the way we might like them ideally. There is grace to cover both. It is okay to admit both of those things when you see them in your life. It is good to reach to do better, but we don’t have to do so in an attempt to become good enough, and we can be okay with where we are now even if we aren’t at our final goal yet.

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