Shame Pt 1: Perfectionism (cont.)

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor” – Anne Lamott

If you missed my first post on perfectionism, read it here.

Ok, you’re convinced you struggle with perfectionism.  Some in lesser degrees, some in more life-defining ways.  Now what?

First, let’s start with some common strategies that reflect the wisdom of the world.  What are the counselors of the world saying about overcoming perfectionism?  How can you spot these strategies in your own approach to combatting the problem?

Here are a few I’ve come across:

1. Ideals are not something to be achieved, they are meant to point you in the right direction.  In other words, lower your expectations of yourself.

2. Respect and love yourself.  You are not perfect, but you are valuable and worthy of love.

3. Stop worrying about things that are not under your control such as the future or others’ perceptions of you.  You cannot do anything to change them, so let them go.

Although these strategies have good intentions, the Gospel offers something so much richer than letting go of ideals, loving yourself in the midst of failure and simply “letting go” of things that are out of our control.

Here are some truths of the Gospel from Mike Emlet that speak to the heart of the perfectionist:

You are united to the PERFECT ONE.

Romans 6:1 – 7:6 outlines various truths re: our union with Christ.  We are united in both his death and resurrection.  We have died to sin and raised to newness of life.  Because we are “in Christ,” we hear God’s loving voice “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22)  Hear His voice, brother or sister!  He has freed us, He has broken any condemnation that lies within the voice of the oppressor.  So go and live in confidence!  We are freed from our slavery to standards because there is one that has met all the standards worth meeting.  His record is ours.  The question is not “how do I make my standards more realistic,” it is “how do I cultivate a deeper appreciation for God’s love shown in Christ?”  The focus turns outward, off of ourselves and our performance and onto the One that did what we could never do!

Embrace Weakness.

This is by far the easiest thing to tell a perfectionist, right?  Embrace your weakness!  But when the Gospel has sunk in, this is the appropriate attitude to embrace.

Reactively:  What do you do when you fail?  We are called to run to Jesus.  His sacrifice is once and for all.  Embrace it and repent with the strength He provides.


1. Cultivate a daily dependence on God.  What does your prayer life look like?

2. Practice vulnerability in your relationships.  Failure is exposed and brought into the light.

3. Make faithfulness, not perfection your aim.  This one was SO liberating to me.  In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the Parable of the Talents.  The master gives his servants each a different number of talents “to each according to his ability.”  He rewards both the servants that took their talents and made more talents with it, but rebukes the servant that hasn’t invested what he’s been given. How are you being faithful with what you have been given?  Do you compare yourself with others, or are you more concerned about being faithful with the time, physical and mental abilities, emotional capacity, etc. that you have been given?  And remember, even when we are faithless, we have a faithful Savior.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7


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