This is written for Christians who are perfectionists and have lost their joy.
First, perfectionists are created. They do not get there by training. If they did, I should now be a perfectionist: I went to a college run by perfectionists, a military college—U.S. Naval Academy. The Academy had four years to make me a perfectionist and did not succeed. I was born something else.
Second, it is a good thing that God made perfectionists and many of them. As a result, all man-made erected things from houses to airplanes are put together right.
Third, problems occur. Students in university dorms are put together in the same room. One of them is a perfectionist. The other is a slob. Both of them were born that way. One of the two is unhappy. Which one?
Fourth, perfectionist standards are not virtues. Unfortunately, some perfectionists think they are.
Fifth, besides all of the good qualities of a perfectionist, there are difficulties that he is not aware of, or if he is he does not know how to handle them.
He has a different standard from God’s. It is not higher than God’s standard, but it is treated with more importance than God’s.
He works at meeting that standard. If he fails to meet it, he has no grace or forgiveness for it.
Sometimes he has no grace or forgiveness for the others who do not meet the standard. When that occurs, he gets impatient and angry with the other people. This is sin, but he might not recognize it and confess it because he has justified the anger.
When he himself falls short, he may fall into other habits like overeating, biting finger nails, or depression. (Of course, there are perfectionists who are balanced, godly Christians. I am not speaking of you.)
He has a tendency to be introspective. He finds that his imperfection is a “downer,” not an “upper.” His introspection is accusatory and condemning, not convicting. The accuser of the brothers is Satan (Revelation 12). Conviction that leads to forgiveness is from the Holy Spirit (John 16), When he introspects, he is feeding the accuser.
Some perfectionists become obsessive-compulsive in their behavior. It is difficult to recognize this as sin. Consequently, they do not confess it as sin and then are not forgiven for this sin. They are not living in the joy of their salvation because they are being disciplined by God. They adjust to all of this because it is their normal lifestyle.
There are several solutions to these difficulties.
1) Measure your feelings with the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:22-24).
Love: “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13).
Joy: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).
Peace: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17).
Patience: “But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God” (1 Peter 2:20).
Kindness: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Goodness: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness…. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness” (2 Peter 1:3, 5).
Self-Control: “And to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness” (2 Peter 1:6).
You will find out that when you are impatient you are also not kind, loving, joyful, or at peace. Confess it as sin.
2) Look at how your perfectionism affects those around you. Are you building them up in love?
3) You are not allowed to be a critical Christian. You are part of the body of Christ. Recognize that your standards are not virtues.
4) Take each one of your standards and put it next to one of God’s standards. Then choose to follow God’s standard, not yours. If you fail God’s standard, there is forgiveness (1 John 2:1).
If you fail your standard, there is no forgiveness, because you have no grace to give out. If you are obsessive compulsive and want to wash your hands, refuse to do it. If you want to clean your room, refuse to do it. Keep on refusing to do it. You might think you will die, but you will not die. It is not that important to God. Imagine (or actually go) to be a missionary to a tribe that washes once a week, or month, or year. The people stink, and their houses stink. You love for them has to be senior to your standards. And they have to know that you love them.
Now transfer this thinking to include your wife and children. You, as a Christian, may not be impatient. Your standards have to be subservient to God’s. It may be that you have to set aside your standards all together and substitute God’s standards. It will be a good trade.
Written in 2016.