The Problem With Perfectionism

“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment and blame.”

—Brené Brown

Church leaders can be driven by perfectionism, and it might be driving you into the ground.

The stakes are super high in what we’re doing, and so we ratchet up the internal (and sometimes external) pressure to perform beyond a healthy desire to honor God with our work.

We’re inspired by manically driven leaders who polish every detail of their product or service but willingly ignore the impact that has on the people around them. I’ve gone through phases of my ministry when I’ve suffered from perfectionism, and it has been painful.

Here are a few things that I’ve learned about this mindset and its impact on church leadership:

1. Perfectionism is hindering your church.

There is a line between wanting to do an excellent job to honor God and inspire people, and obsessing towards perfection.

When a leader is driven to perfection, you put the focus on yourself and your talent rather than on what God wants to do and your people. You make it about your standards. It repels people from serving with you and it reduces your effectiveness.

2. Perfection is procrastination.

Continuing to polish your latest “thing” at your church is slowing you down from having an impact. It can feel so much safer to be in the workshop perfecting your craft rather than in the showcase making a difference.

Your spiritual gifts were given to you to make an impact in the world around you … not as a private gift for you to perfect. The more you polish toward perfection … the more you are putting off making an impact in the world.

3. Perfectionism leads to black-and-white thinking.

If you find yourself boiling everything down to binary approaches, then you might be suffering from perfectionism.

Oftentimes perfectionism can lead toward thinking that we either are going to hit a certain standard, or be an absolute failure. Life is more nuanced than that!

Reject binary thinking and explore the multiplicity of options available to you in solving the problems you face as a church leader!

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Rich Birch
Rich serves as Operations Pastor at Liquid Church in the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. He blogs at UnSeminary.com and is a sought after speaker and consultant on multisite, pastoral productivity and communications.