The Pitfalls of Perfectionism

March 23, 2015

I confess that I am a recovering perfectionist. Even though I readily admit that I am far from perfect, I prefer not to experience the consequences of being an imperfect person, like letting people down, failing a task, or being critiqued. Not that anyone likes experiencing these things, but I have spent copious amounts of energy in my life attempting to avoid these inevitable realities of being human. And to what gain?

While it may seem that striving to be perfect is a noble effort, the pursuit of perfection has many pitfalls. One major problem is the emphasis that perfectionists tend to place on self. In my own experience, this looks like operating from a place of self-sufficiency rather than acknowledging my daily need for God. When I rely on my strength (or, at least what I think is mine!), it is no surprise that I am frequently disappointed with my own limitations.Image courtesy of Unsplash by Chelsea Francis

Image courtesy of Unsplash by Chelsea Francis

Here are a few more pitfalls of perfectionism:

People-pleasing. Perfectionists have many masters, including everyone we know! We like to be liked, and this can become a bigger priority than being right with the Lord. “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10). The truth is we are to seek to please only one Master, Jesus Christ.

Playing it “safe.” Perfectionists don’t like to take risks for fear of failing. The bigger risk here, however, is missing out on what the Lord desires to do in our lives because of fear. “Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!'” (Matt. 14:29-30). We can easily get onto Peter here for being afraid. But I’m pretty sure Peter was less afraid than the other disciples who never stepped out of the boat. Because Peter was willing to step out, he had a faith-building encounter with Jesus that night.

Not being accountable to others. Perfectionists subtly believe the lie that if they just try hard enough, they can avoid exposing their weaknesses to others. However, this often means that sin remains concealed rather than healed. “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Prov. 28:13). If we are ever going to grow relationally and spiritually, it is crucial that we admit our areas of vulnerability and weakness to others.

The only perfection we can acknowledge in our lives is Jesus Christ. This should produce a sigh of relief for perfectionists everywhere, because it means we can stop our striving! It is by His grace that we experience any good, and it is by His grace that we are not condemned for our failures. “He has saved us and called us to a holy life– not because of anything we have done– but because of his own purpose and grace” (2 Timothy 1:9).
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Joanne Jemsek
Director of Counseling Services

Set Free

March 16, 2015

One of the most encouraging blessings about the Gospel is how Jesus satisfied the wrath of God for those who have surrendered to His Lordship. 1 John 2:1–2 states, “1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (NIV; emphasis mine) Verse two clearly reminds us that JESUS atoned “for our sins,” that is, He satisfied the wrath of God. Even though our sins demanded punishment, Jesus took ours so we did not have to receive it.

What good news! Christians are no longer under the punishment of God but the grace of God. (Ephesians 2:1–10) What does this mean for you and me? We live under the freedom of God’s grace. When taking tests, sometimes we do well and other times, not so well. Because of Jesus, we have already passed the class of salvation with an A! Now we are free to love Him and others in return because of the wonderful gift we have been given that has transformed our hearts and minds.

As you work, study, take care of family, pay bills, etc., my prayer is you experience the love of Jesus in a powerful and intimate way. God will see you through (cf. Philippians 1:6). Even when you sin – and the conviction of the Holy Spirit is a good thing – “we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” We do not stand condemned; we stand free because of the blood of Jesus. Conviction reminds us of our need to be Christ-like and the goodness of the gospel. Conviction is not “condemnation.”

sunrise to freedom

Because of Jesus, the gospel gives us this: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) Whatever you are facing today and this week, be encouraged because the Lord is at work. You have been set free for a reason: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10; emphasis mine) Now is the time to continue the good work you are doing. Even though school might be considered work, it is still good because you are doing it for the Lord.

So, remember you have been set free by Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. You are now free to excel in the call of God. Nothing and no one can hold you back when God is for you! Remember, Jesus is your Savior. If He can atone for sins, He can fix anything!

Blessings!
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Your Campus Pastor, Jon Davis

Answering the Call (with a Life Message)

March 09, 2015

One of the MANY great things about the Bible is that God has made it so personal. I don’t know about you, but there is hardly a time I read God’s word that I don’t find something that speaks directly to me, my circumstances, my needs, the needs of those I care about — something personal and practical.  That is why I have never had a problem with the truth of Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” [NASB]

That has been my experience, and that is also why I look to God’s word as a source for understanding His big picture for my life. Have you ever done that? You NEED to do that!

Early in my career, I was challenged to develop a life purpose or personal mission statement. The assumption was that, just as I couldn’t lead a company effectively without a clear vision and mission, neither can you and I live our lives fruitfully without a clear sense of our own purpose and direction.

I made attempts at creating my personal mission statement – some sounded pretty impressive – but, thankfully, I had been walking with Jesus long enough to hear Him say (not audibly): “I’ve got something better to say about how I designed you … about My purpose for you.  Just look in the Bible.”  I did. And He did.

The first time I opened myself to looking for His purpose, I was leading a Bible study of several hundred men. Those years built my love for God’s word — for teaching it, and for watching it work in the lives of those men. And that led to my first understanding of God’s purpose for my life. As I taught, I saw a pattern develop in God’s methodology for making what I was teaching real to me.  Somehow, God would orchestrate circumstances so that I would have to experience the truth of those lessons before I had to teach them. It made my teaching infinitely more practical, and helped me learn how to help those men apply scripture to real life.

When I asked Him about His purpose for me, He took me to the passage that not only fit, but it helped me understand His pattern – it is my first “Life Verse”: Ezra 7:10, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” [NASB]  That is the pattern that God has used to direct my life.

  • Set my heart
  • Study His word
  • Practice / Live out what it says
  • Teach it to others (Has echoes of “walk the talk”, doesn’t it?)

When I became president of my first company, I asked God again to clarify my purpose. At the same time, my leadership team was asking Him to clarify our company purpose. Amazingly – and wonderfully – He gave the same answer to both requests. Our corporate verse became also my second “Life Verse”: John 12:32, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”

answering the call

This was perfect for a company working with elevators and escalators – we were in the “lifting” business, so this verse added depth and eternity to everything we did. For me personally, it added the missing piece to my life pattern from Ezra:

  • Point to, lift up, reflect, represent Jesus in everything I do

Having a life purpose is an amazing gift from God, and since He NEVER does anything without having a purpose, you can be sure He has one for you! He made you (Psalm 139); He wired you; He gave you skills, passions, and at least one spiritual gift (I Corinthians 12:7, 11). None of that was random. Ask Him to show you His purpose for your life. He’ll love the process of revealing it to you, and you’ll love the result … I guarantee it!

With Purpose,
DLH Tux Pic 10.2014

 

 

 

Douglas Hunter
Executive Director
The Whitfield Center for Christian Leadership
at Charleston Southern University