Perfection Confusion

Posted: April 10, 2011 by clairer in Perfection, Pride

“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”

I would be the first to admit that perfection is unattainable. No matter how many hours I study, there will be days when I do not score 100%. However well-intentioned I am, I will not always give the best advice to my friends. Although I spend daily time with God, I consistently fall short of the passion He deserves. No, I know that the high bar of perfection is unreachable…but I still try.

It’s easy to justify this drive for perfection. “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll still land among the stars,” we are told. By trying to be perfect, I’m simply ensuring that I’m doing my best…right?

But are we called to pursue perfection… or excellence? While we are told in God’s word to “be holy because I am holy” we are also told that all have “fallen short.” While we were originally called to this perfection, the minute we sin, we lose all chance of being perfect. It’s like a GPA. The moment you get anything lower than an A in one class, you lose the ability to get a 4.0 no matter how many more A’s you achieve in the rest of your schooling. But, there is hope.

As Christians we are called to excellence, not perfection. The Bible says that “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man.” Thus, if we are supposed to be doing everything for God, we should be doing everything with excellence or to the best of our ability.

But how does striving for excellence and striving for perfection differ? If you’re striving for perfection, aren’t you striving for the highest level of excellence? I think there are two things that differentiate the pursuit of perfection from the desire for excellence: the motivation and the response.

What is the motivation behind perfectionism? Pride.  The fact that we feel the drive to be perfect means that we think we can be perfect. We become motivated by end results (perfection) and not the process. We are saying that as long as we try our hardest, perfection is the only acceptable result for us. That’s a prideful motivation.

Perfectionism is also selfishly motivated. We are doing things to glorify ourselves rather than doing our best to use the gifts God has given us to glorify Him.

On the other hand, when we are striving for excellence, we are doing so with a desire to glorify God. Since God is our Creator, doing things well automatically reflects upon His excellence, omnipotence, and goodness. Using our gifts and talents points others to Him.

Our reaction to the result is also different depending on our goal. If we are always striving for perfection, then any result other than a perfect one will be unacceptable. We may have done our best and still have fallen short. Perfectionism is full of disappointment. Striving for excellence allows us to  be satisfied – and trust God — with the results. Excellence enables us to be content knowing we did the best that we could, and it permits us to learn from our mistakes. It’s been said, “Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life.” Our imperfections teach us. When we acknowledge our inability to be perfect, we are freeing ourselves to learn the lessons we are meant to learn.

It takes humility to let go of our perfectionism. It requires us to admit that we cannot be perfect and it reorients praise from self to God. As Christians, we must acknowledge our call to excellence and pursue it– not perfection– for God’s glory.

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Comments
  1. JoRo says:

    Another excellent post! You’re so encouraging. I think you should write a book. 😉

  2. Shanna says:

    Hey Claire!
    Excellent job with the latest post. Its refreshing to see a young adult’s encouraging post when a lot of young adults/older teens get discouraged in this area, especially with grades.

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