We often hear the advice, “give our best” and pursue excellence in all we do, and we know this is shared with good intent, but to the perfectionist it is like quicksand – advice that sucks us into a deep abyss of endless pursuit.
Going for best can be a stronghold that drives stress, condemnation, fatigue, discouragement, disillusionment, selfish ambition, and frustration.
Why? Because giving one’s best and aspiring for excellence is a constant pursuit. It fuels workaholism and disconnects the shut off valve. It’s an all consuming demand – to keep driving, to keep perfecting, to keep going for the best, because after all, we can always do better. For what is our best? We can always improve, always enhance, and always strive to perfect our works.
Why is this a negative thing and shouldn’t we want this behavior in our life? Not necessarily –
Perhaps another way to articulate this message that doesn’t fuel the poison of perfectionism is to simply aspire to do a task well. Give attention to it, go for better, and seek quality, but not perfection.
Perfectionism is not healthy and not realistic. Yet, many of us struggle with it. God however knows perfection is impossible for us. He alone is perfect. Therefore, He asks us do all things with heart, and for His glory – working for Him and not for man.
If our heart is in our work, we will aspire to do all things well and seek to glorify Him throughout a task without grumbling and complaining.
The perfectionist has a hard time with this. Quite often there is plenty of grumbling, complaining, self critiques, disappointment, and judgments placed – very little joy and glory.
Perfectionism also causes us to focus on the possibilities of man – and to pursue the praises of others and self.
So, God’s advice is much wiser and realistic than to simply do our best. Although, deeply counter cultural. He says whatever we do, look to Christ for strength, persevere, and do it with a heart of service to Him – all for His glory and with thanksgiving.
This is a job well done and the cure for perfectionism – for God does not say, you did and are the best, and you did the greatest job with perfection – but rather, “job well done, my good and faithful servant. You were faithful and trustworthy” (Matthew 25:23).
This in no way let’s us off the hook and condones mediocre work, but quite the opposite. It empowers us to do all things well, to leave things better than we find them, and work for His honor and glory, all without the condemnation, critiques, and constraints of perfectionism.
When this truth hit me, I literally felt the shackles of perfectionism and workaholism fall away. I was once again freed by God’s grace and love. His wisdom is not to wear ourselves out for worldly gains, and yet I couldn’t help it. I had to do my best, be number one, and let nothing stop me – and it was killing my spirit, my body, and my soul. It was a black hole of effort, striving, and work, and when I got to number one, it rarely gratified past the moment, and there was rarely joy during the process and pursuit.
This is no way to live – but we can leave things a little better than we find them, be good stewards of what we have been given, and do a job well. That’s so much more gratifying, glorifying, and fun.