I’m Not Signing Up For Perfect

“We don’t have to be perfect to be a blessing. We are asked only to be real, trusting in His perfection to cover our imperfection, knowing that one day we will finally be all that Christ saved us for and wants us to be.” – Gigi Graham Tchividjian

Are you trying to be perfect? Is your life suffering because you’re focused on perfect outcomes or responses? What if I told you it’s not your job to be perfect, and chasing it may cost you more than you know?

photo: Raye Wortel

photo: Raye Wortel

My perfectionist side grew out of my childhood. My family and I lived in a house that was 864 square feet in size. Five us of crammed into a tiny house, living life day after day.

Everything had order. Living in such a small space warranted that “everything had a place, and everything was in its place.” My dad was a stickler for order. I remember how he insisted labels on canned goods faced front. And a jar of peanut butter couldn’t share a shelf with a can of green beans. Shoes went here, books went there, and clutter was not easily tolerated.

However, my perfectionist attitude was really formed by a statement he always made:

If you can’t do it right the first time, don’t bother doing it at all.

I know those words were an echo of his childhood – passed down from his parents, and theirs before them. Yet, this statement has done more to hold me captive and frozen than anything I’ve ever experienced.

Projects don’t get started. Adventure don’t get taken. And experiences aren’t well, experienced.

Are you trapped, too? Does perfectionism keep you from living a fuller, richer life?

Perfectionism is often called a “dream killer” or an excuse for procrastination. American novelist, Anne Lamott, calls perfectionism the “Voice of the Oppressor”.

Perfectionism affects every area of our life. Maybe you already see where it’s tripping you up. It’s important we face the perfectionist inside us, but before we can, we first need to understand what it is:

Perfectionism is … often rooted in pride.

In the pride of your heart you say, “I am a god.” – Ezekiel 28:2

Perfect hair, perfect house, perfect children.

How much time do we spend each morning on our hair? How much of our day is dedicated to Pinterest and HGTV looking for the perfect design ideas for the perfect home? Or how many hours do we scour the Internet, or parenting books trying to deal with our kid’s seemingly horrible behavior?

If we were to ask ourselves what motivates us to spend so much time perfecting ourselves, our home, or our family, it could be summed up in one word …


Let’s face it, so much of what we do is dirty and thankless. If I could coax one word of affirmation from another person that I’m doing motherhood, marriage, or succulent gardening right, I’d try to make my life shine every day.

Perfectionism is … a myth.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1

Perfect today, forgotten tomorrow.

How many times have you worked yourself to exhaustion only to realize most of what was done didn’t matter? Where your carefully (and expertly) prepared festive dessert sat forgotten on the kitchen counter long after the dinner party was over. Or when you researched (for hours) the perfect family vacation, only to find everyone just wanted to lounge by the hotel pool instead. So often, our perfect efforts go unnoticed or unappreciated.

What satisfied as perfection today, becomes irrelevant tomorrow.

We work and worry and toil, striving for perfection. We’ve burdened ourselves with standards that shift every day. Someone will always come along and do it, say it, or live it better than us tomorrow. Why do we do this to ourselves?

Perfection is … procrastination in disguise.

Remember what my dad used to say, if you can’t do it right the first time, don’t bother doing it at all?

I don’t know about you, but there isn’t much I can do right the first time. Admitting this creates fear. Fear to start, fear to finish, and fear of failure. With so much fear bouncing around, we’re likely to spend time doing safer activities like laundry, hanging out on Facebook, or conquering twenty levels on Candy Crush.

Instead of stepping out, we step in. Instead of taking a chance, we let it pass us by, and our enthusiasm for life dies a little bit each day.

Perfection is … an enemy of contentment.

Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. – 1 Corinthians 7:20

“No matter what I do, it’s never good enough.”

Have you ever said this? I have … a lot.

But what’s our definition of “good enough”? And if we could define it, would we be okay with it? This is where perfectionism steals our contentment. We keep upping the ante – pressuring ourselves to work harder and impress more. To put it another way …

We’re afraid of insignificance.

So we seek, instead of rest. Strive, instead of linger. And it’s costing us.

Perfection is … God’s business.

Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. – Luke 10:41-42

There’s only one thing we need to focus our perfectionist attitude towards and that’s our relationship with God. Admiration of family and friends won’t pave our way to heaven. We’re just exhausting ourselves and straining relationships with those we love.

But I get it. God’s process of perfecting seems slow and largely intangible. But do we dare let go? Do we dare leave it squarely on God’s shoulders – trusting his work is all we need?

My daughter recently wrote me a note apologizing for something she did. She promised to be more aware of her behavior, but it’s what she said after her apology that really moved me …

“But I’m not signing up for perfect.”

Fair enough. I can live with that. Can you?

How have you struggled with perfectionism? What steps have you taken to make a change?

2 Replies

  1. Mike Macias

    “PERFECT” timing, God is so good. I’m a little thickheaded so it’s taken a bit but I’m finally beginning to realize that the goal, the finished product, is not what God’s interested in or gives Him any delight. It’s the process, that what glorifies Him. Thanks for your perspective and thought provoking message. God bless.

    1. Raye Wortel

      I see what you did there, Mike! God is good, and thanks for your comment. Glad you enjoyed it.

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