Hi, my name is Gina and I’m a perfectionist. I like to say recovering perfectionist because I’ve been working on this chronic condition for a long time. I’d like to think I’ve come a long way. I don’t say fully recovered perfectionist because that would be grossly dishonest.
This tendency has plagued me since my earliest memories. I remember in first grade, the very first time I didn’t complete a school assignment flawlessly. I was traumatized for the rest of the day because I had to erase and rewrite the correct punctuation marks several times, and wow didn’t that paper look wrinkled and ugly? In the years that followed I think I cried every time my team lost a soccer game. I never truly knew what it felt like to fail at school because I graduated high school with a 4.0. Then in college when I got a D on an economics exam, I felt like I got sucker-punched (I got an A- for the class at the end of term).
I know, what a tough life.
I got my head on a little straighter when I made Jesus Lord of my life at age 19. I was (and still am) completely enamored with the God who loves me unconditionally. But my personality didn’t change overnight…and I carried that performance mentality over into my spiritual life. If I wasn’t bringing my A-game to my ministry and my walk with God, I was a failure.
Then I became a wife. And a mom. And perhaps this is when I fully started to grasp the enormity of my inadequacies. Academics are a cakewalk compared to parenting, marriage and homemaking.
To make matters worse, if I don’t keep my heart in check, I can view my husband and kids’ shortcomings as a poor reflection on me. Which means their failures = my failures. Thinking this way makes us all feel really loved and secure about ourselves. (See that there? Sarcasm.)
I have a perfectionist child now too, who helps me see just how silly the perfectionist mindset is. When he throws a fit over not keeping his coloring inside the lines, I totally get him.
I know that not every mom struggles with this…but a lot of us do. It comes out in different ways. I couldn’t care less about how my hair looks on a particular day or whether or not I missed a spot cleaning the bathtub, but if I forget to return the library books and get charged a late fee, I will lose my mind. (What’s your struggle? Just curious.)
There’s a lot more I could say on this matter, but I think it’s time to get some actual wisdom from the Scriptures. There is nothing I can “do” about my perfectionism except continually seek to transform my thoughts regarding the way I see myself.
10 Bible Verses for the Perfectionist Mama
Okay, I lied; I have a couple more minor theological points I want to make. The Bible talks a lot about perfection, but the meaning of the word doesn’t translate exactly to the way we think about it. It refers to completeness or wholeness. Let that sink in as you read the following passages.
I’m also pretty sure the apostle Paul was a perfectionist, as he wrote quite a bit about the battle he and other Jewish Christians had with legalism (i.e. following rules and trying to justify yourself through impossible standards). You can see it here in the passages from Romans, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians.
On the Power of Grace
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
This is the unconditional love of Christ that first won me over years ago and continues to now. We could just stop right here.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
I think I often get the order of things mixed up here, not consciously but through my actions. I feel like I have to do good works in order to justify myself, when it is the other way around; I do good works because I am already justified.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
Paul speaks powerfully to my performance-oriented heart here. All he wanted was to know Christ, and when I cut through perfectionist crap, I know that’s all I want to know too.
2 Corinthians 12:9–10 (emphasis added)
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
That about sums it up for me. I’m tempted to think about it all backwards: that I need to have my act together so that I can reflect God’s power. Really, God’s power is made perfect in me when I am a hot mess.
On Being Complete
Colossians 1:21-22 (emphasis added)
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…
Wait, did you catch all of that? I hear a lot of Christians say, “I’m not perfect.” But that is wrong. Read it and weep: Christ’s body makes us holy and blemish-free, free from accusation—because you are forgiven and complete.
For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
There it is again. He’s made us perfect!
Galatians 2:20 (emphasis added)
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
In case you want to argue with me about whether or not you’re perfect, if Christ lives in you, you ARE.
Focusing on Growth
Philippians 1:6 (emphasis added)
…He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It helps me to focus on growth rather than snapshots of performance. And it says here that God is continuing to work in me and will keep it up until I reach completion. Kind of a mind-trip: I am perfect/complete already, yet I will still continue to grow more complete. Say what???
2 Peter 1:5–8
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I add this one because I think it clarifies why, even though Christ already makes us complete/perfect, we still make an effort to grow.
Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.
Oh by the way, in case it’s not obvious, if you’re competing with other people on your own journey to completeness, just stop.
As often happens, by working through these passages I have found encouragement and strength for myself. If you’re a perfectionist, I hope they speak powerfully to you as well.
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If you enjoyed this study, you might also like my other Mama Verses posts.
Are you a perfectionist? What helps give you better perspective?
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