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The Perils of Being a Perfectionist

The Perils of Being a Perfectionist

I am a perfectionist with an imperfect life. 

Since I was a child, I have desired to do many things perfectly, at least according to my standards. This is not true in all areas of my life. This is only true in the areas I care about the most; writing is one of those areas. When I write, I long for the words to be laid out perfectly. I desire for the phrases to be pithy and memorable. If I am honest, I want people to read what I write and react by saying, “Now that was profound!”

Here is a confession for you: I am not a good writer, and I know it. The English language still confuses me with all of its rules. I never received above a “C” in English in high school or college. Yet, for some crazy reason (masochistic, maybe?), I continue to return to the discipline of capturing thoughts in the written word. 

You may not be a writer, but my guess is that there is something in your life that you value and wish you were good at doing. Maybe, it is a hobby like fishing, skiing or surfing. Maybe, it is a trade such as being a mechanic or an interior designer. There are often areas in our lives that we have a passion for but are not able to accomplish at the level we wish we could attain them. 

Not being good at something you love is more normal than you think. 

Many of the people we admire, who are good at something, were not always good at that something. They had to discipline themselves to learn and improve their skill. Often, our passion for something outweighs our ability to accomplish it. 

In order to begin learning and improving in that desired area, we have to do it with passion and forget perfection. Our pride and longing for precision must be put aside. We have to realize that we will not get it right the first time, but getting it done at all is a feat.

The first rule to getting good at something is to get over your pride. 

One of the reasons I have been kept from finishing or writing some of my best content is because I am scared of not getting it right. This is foolishness. I am not sure I can tell you anything I did right the first time. Nearly every skill I have started by doing it wrong, or not fully correct, before I learned how to do it the better or best way. 

Perfectionism is the great show stopper. Satan would love nothing more than to convince competent Christians that they should not do something because it will not be good enough. God gave us a set of gifts and passions, and we are to use those gifts and passions for His glory. 

God knows our limits and our passions, and He can be glorified if we are willing to do what we can and trust the results of our efforts to Him. 

I was struggling with this idea of getting things done until they were perfect. My wife saw it, my assistant saw it, and so did some of my closest partners in ministry. They saw me start projects and never finish. I often excused my lack of doing or finishing things as a lack of time to do them. While that may have been true, I think the fear of failure was keeping me from finishing. I had a desire to do it “the best way” or “complete” and, in all of this, I was being stopped from doing things (many great things for the Gospel) because I wanted it to be just right.

I was sharing this with a friend, teacher and author, Jonathan Leeman. He is a father, Elder, prolific writer and traveling speaker. “I can’t seem to get good stuff on paper,” I lamented. “What is your advice for writing and getting content out in the midst of all my other responsibilities at home and church,” I asked.

“A half of a loaf is better than no loaf,” Jonathan said with utter conviction.

The perfection bubble I was building my writing ministry upon popped with his sharp words. He went on to explain that one of the most loving things I can do for my church and family is to get writing done by: (1) respecting I can only give it so much time, and (2) realizing that it may not be perfect. He added that it is better to give what I can and get something out now than to hold back, waiting for the “Someday…when I have more time…” moment. 

Perfectionism is a tool of the enemy. If Satan can slow us or stop us from using our passions and skills for the Kingdom of God, he wins. So, let’s use the time and talent we have to please God, remembering that there is only One who is perfect…and we are not Him. 

This article originally appeared here.