rebelling against low expectations

The Problem with Perfectionism: 3 Reasons Why It Can Be Sinful

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I’m a perfectionist, and I’m not proud of that.

Being a perfectionist means I put a lot of pressure on myself, create unrealistic goals, and always try to impress others. I want to appear as if I have it “all together”.

I’ll never forget how much I wanted to appear that way when it came time to pick classes for my Junior year of High School.

In 9th grade, I took two honors classes and loved them so much that I took all honors classes in 10th grade. When the spring semester of 10th grade rolled around, I remember thinking, “I don’t want to go back to the regular class. I’m above that.”

I wanted to continue challenging myself, so I chose two AP classes and two honors classes for the 11th grade. But deep down, I knew my motive went beyond wanting a challenge – I wanted to be the “special child.”

Out of all my siblings, I’m the only one who has ever taken advanced classes. Even though my siblings are now out of school, I still found myself competing with their high school experience. It was my way of being “better” than them.

Looking back, it sounds kind of silly. Why did I feel that way?

Because I wanted to make myself better. And not just better than who I am, but better than others.

The Problem

Have you ever laughed because someone made a mistake?

Have you ever thought you were better than someone else because you’ve done this or that, and they haven’t?

Have you ever wished you were someone different?

I can say “Yes” to all three questions, unfortunately.

The thing is, we can’t be a “better version” of ourselves in our own strength or have it “all together” by simply trying harder.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.”

Because Adam sinned, we were all born with a sinful nature. Therefore, no one on this earth can be perfect because we are sinful and flawed, and there is nothing we can do about it. Nothing! As imperfect beings we cannot manufacture our own perfection. And honestly, praise God because otherwise, we wouldn’t rely on God, we wouldn’t recognize our need for Christ.

We perfectionists tend to resist reliance on God because we think we can achieve the goal of perfection on our own. The thing is, though, since we will remain imperfect until Jesus returns, we will always fail when we trust ourselves.

Our ways are faulty.

So, what exactly does Jesus mean about being perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect in Matthew 5:48? Doesn’t that mean we have to strive for perfection?

This verse means that we are to follow the example of our heavenly Father to the best of our abilities. We are to grow to be more like Him by how we live, and in the context of this passage, how we love others – which is very different to how perfectionism compels us to behave, constantly comparing and competing. It is a command to aim to live a life of holiness, and not conform to this world (Rom. 12:2).

While perfectionism comes with lots of pressure, God’s command to be perfect (and every other command He gives) is coupled with a promise – the help of His Holy Spirit (John 14:26). It is He who enables us to follow the example of our perfect heavenly Father. So, we don’t have to try harder. All we have to do is rely on and submit to Him.

Sinful Perfectionism

So, is perfectionism unbiblical?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do things to the best of our abilities, but what makes perfectionism sinful is our motive, like the experience I mentioned earlier. And having those motives can lead to these three areas of sin:

1. Focusing on Self

Often, with perfectionism, we’re trying to make ourselves look better. Our concern is how we appear to others, what others think or say about us. As a result, our focus is on ourselves instead of Christ and how we can bring Him glory.

Slowly but surely, we become self-centered.

All we think about is what we can do to improve ourselves and how everyone will adore us if we do thus and so. In doing that, we become our own idols, constantly obsessed with how we can stay atop our pedestals in the eyes of others.

That’s not how we’re supposed to live.

In everything we do, we are to bring honor to God and point others to Him, not us. Click To Tweet

In everything we do, we are to bring honor to God and point others to Him, not us.

2. Not Seeking God

This self-focus leads us to neglect seeking God first and foremost. We stop including God in our decisions and praying about our next steps. Instead, all we’re thinking about is doing what we want, not what God wants.

We get so focused on doing the things we desire that we stop seeking the things of God. Perfectionism takes our focus off Christ.

We no longer think about doing His will but instead seek our will. Because seeking God means surrendering control – including control of what others think and believe about us.

Seeking God means surrendering control – including control of what others think and believe about us. Click To Tweet

3. Aiming for the Impossible

Like I said before, we were born imperfect, so while in this world, we cannot be perfect.

For a perfectionist, it’s hard to fathom, and even though we know this truth, we still strive for that unattainable goal anyway: being perfect.

Do you want to spend your life trying harder and harder to reach something even though you seem to get farther from that goal with every attempt?

We need to redeem the time because the days are evil (Eph. 5:16). We shouldn’t be living like this.

Instead, we should focus on how we can serve God, further His kingdom, and be His vessel. Focus on living for Christ instead of how we want people to perceive us.

My friend, I still struggle with perfectionism every day. It is a constant battle I must fight on my knees. But when I look to God, I realize how weak I am and how much I need Him to get through anything.

Don’t wear yourself out trying to appear perfect. Instead seek to live in humble dependence upon Christ, allowing Him to use your imperfections for His glory.


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About the author

Heaven Franklin

is a 16-year-old High School Junior who is striving to be in the world but not of it. She desires to live her life for Christ to the best of her ability and share her faith with others. When she’s not blogging, you can find her taking photos, reading, diamond painting or listening to Adventures in Odyssey. If you would like to connect with Heaven, you can check out her blog GlorifyChrist

1 comment

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  • Thank you so much for sharing your experience and what you’ve learned, Heaven! As a perfectionist myself, this is such a convicting reminder to set aside my pride and lean on Christ. It’s a constant battle for me, but I’ve been encouraged to see the Lord helping me grow lately in this area!

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →