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Perfectionism is a Sin

December 29, 2012

“Perfectionism is just everyone trying to be like me.”–I would tell you who originally said this quote, but modesty forbids.

      Before I start with this article, I would like to set out what I am NOT saying. I am not trying to argue against doing well in all endeavors, or against doing your best. Also, I am not trying to say that attention to detail or a desire to do tasks as well as possible is sin. With that in mind, lets dive into what perfectionism actually is.

     Perfectionism, or negative perfectionism, if you will, involves a fear of failing. This perfectionism is the sort of attitude that avoids doing something because of the possibility of failing. I encounter this sort of attitude often in my work. It’s the attitude that tries to get out of work by using that excuse that your work will not be very good. For example, the inner perfectionist (the inner child?) will try to tell me that I should give up on trying to write a song, because all I can come up with is the same three chords that everyone uses. Or it will try to tell me not to write a blog post, because I feel like I don’t have any good ideas to write about. It is laziness disguised as a desire for excellence.

I hate to tell her, but she’s still not perfect.

      Perfectionism keeps us waiting. We don’t write that article because we’re waiting on the Great American Novel to come from the muse. We don’t go practice our instrument because we’re waiting on that moment where a light shines from heaven and we become the next Joe Satriani. We don’t date such person because we’re waiting for the perfect spouse, who always happens to be tailor-made to fit our desires. (Has anyone ever considered the fact that the perfect man/woman probably wouldn’t want to hang around them?) We can come up with many good excuses for this behavior. However, if we look behind our excuses, we will find that the sins of fear and sloth animate this perfectionism.

Please note the strong resemblance that the man in the picture bears to the author of this post.

     How can we combat this sin of perfectionism? First, we can look to the example of Jesus Christ. All of our standards for excellence fall short compared to the power and majesty of God. We don’t do things so we can meet a man-made standard. We do things for the glory of God. No matter what we are doing, we need to be doing it on our knees. Figuratively, of course. Secondly, we can strive for excellence instead of perfection. Unlike the image of perfection that our minds create, excellence does not magically come from us to the skies. Excellence requires work. Any football player knows that if you want to accomplish something great, you need to practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, etc. If Drew Brees or [insert other football player here] had taken the perfectionist approach to sports, he would be watching the New Orleans Saints play from the comfort of his living room. To achieve anything great, you must work hard and you must take risks. You cannot be afraid of failure. You will fail. But you must fail in order to learn what it means to succeed. You can accomplish great things, but not if you still hold to the idol of perfectionism.

Current Listening: The Sun and The Moon by The Bravery, Raising Up The Dead by Caedmon’s Call, Land of the Living by Matthew Perryman Jones

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