My sister Portia would state that I wanted everything perfect and I would not stop until I felt that it was perfect. I would retort back to her that I was not trying to make it perfect, but I wanted it to be done the right way.
Sounds like semantics to me. Both of us were saying the same thing, but I didn’t want to admit that I was suffering from a spirit of perfectionism. Years later, I would say I was striving for excellence and would belabor over a task or project way too long. In essence, I wanted things perfect.
Many of us suffer from the debilitating limitations of perfectionism that causes us to work on something way too long. We want everything to be perfect. Perfection is when we operate in our own might and power, but excellence is when the spirit of God is the guiding force in our lives. There is a difference between the two of them. Don’t get deceived there is a close alignment—one uplifts (excellence) and the other condemns (perfection).
According to Dr. John Castelein, a professor at Lincoln Christian Seminary, perfectionism has standards that continually crush people. Excellence lifts our spirits and makes our souls feel noble. Perfectionism keeps prodding us from behind, making us feel guilty. Excellence inspires and motivates. It says “come”. It draws us in. Perfectionism is always commanding, “you must.” Excellence invites us and says, “you may.” Perfectionism orders, “here is the pattern, copy this pattern.” Excellence challenges saying, “all I ask is that you give your best, your personal best.” Perfectionism is artificial. It neglects the heart and it motivates by guilt. Excellence is authentic and heart-driven and it is motivated by God’s greatness. Perfectionism is done out of a sense of duty. Excellence is contagious and inspires people. (http://www.resurrectioncenter.com/blog/tag/inspiring-people/)
Striving for excellence you may sometimes fall short of your goal, but you don’t stay down. You get up, access your mistakes and keep moving forward. A perfectionist lives in constant condemnation, but when you strive for excellence you realize God created erasers because He knew in the process of getting where He intended for you to go you would make some mistakes.
You must also recognize that there is a difference between striving to be perfect versus endeavoring to perform with excellence. Achieving perfection is an impossible task because it never makes allowances for errors or missteps. Consequently, condemnation and discouragement often follow one’s pursuit of perfection because these unrealistic expectations lead to feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy.
The challenge is knowing when you have crossed over from performing with a spirit of excellence to operating in perfectionism. You always need to be prayerful about whatever you are doing. If not, you find yourself easily in the grips of perfection that is rooted in fear. You have moved away from serving others and moved into self-service.
Perfectionism impedes your progress. Excellence propels and sets you a part for greatness. Recognizing the dichotomy of these two forces operating enables you to move beyond the limitations of perfectionism and propel forward with the liberating spirit of excellence.
Do you find yourself always wanting everything to be perfect? What fears cause you to feel imperfect? I just have to be perfect in _____________?
He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Proverbs 17:27 (KJV)
Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. Daniel 6:3 (KJV)
If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. -Colin Powell
Father, Thank you for exposing the glibness that causes me to think I am doing what is right, but I am not. It may be dressed up to look like the real thing, but underneath it is nothing but a cheap copy. I will no longer be deceived causing me to get caught up in the inertia of doing. I will not confuse the liberation of performing with a spirit of excellence with the limitations of operating in a spirit of perfectionism. Amen.