Understanding Perfectionism

You know those people. They’re that friend who takes thirty-two pictures to capture the perfect angle. They’re the husband who crafts a schedule for family vacation, the sister who straightens the wall hangings in offices, organizes clothes by occasion and color, and keeps a maximum of five icons on the desktop. They’re the person who spends forty-five minutes crafting their one hundred seventy character post and excruciating amounts of time on projects and reports.

We call them perfectionists.

Perfectionism is usually considered a negative trait, and as a recovering perfectionist, I can testify to that! Whenever we become more task-oriented than relationship-oriented, we are heading for trouble. However, what if perfectionism isn’t merely a personality flaw, but a symptom of something deeper? You see, I believe each of us are—in a sense—perfectionists.

No, you may not have an organized office space, sock drawer, or garage, but hear me out. While not all of us takes the time to be incredibly organized, I believe we are all wired for perfection.

Have you ever admired someone’s qualities from a distance, thinking they “have it all together”, only discover flaws that leaves you feeling disappointed? You subconsciously expected perfection of that person. 

Do you remember the hurt when your close friend or significant other misunderstood your intentions? You expected a perfect relationship.

Maybe you’ve faced the death of a family member, a betrayal, abuse, a handicap, or other situation where the bottom dropped out of your world. My sixteen-year-old brother died unexpectedly, and I was blindsided because I anticipated a perfect future without pain. 

Despite seeing imperfection all around us all the time, we continue to subconsciously expect perfection. This has puzzled me, and I ask myself why this is the case. Why do we do this? It’s as if we are banging our heads against the proverbial wall over and over again. 

Perhaps the reason we subconsciously expect perfection is less to do with the reality of our world and more about what was coded into man’s original design.

We were originally created as perfection, for perfection, by perfection.

We were created as perfection. God created mankind sinless and in His image. We were created for perfection. The garden of Eden was our original home.

And lastly, we were created by perfection Himself. The infinite God of the universe designed us. 

When sin shattered our perfect world, the shock waves changed everything, and I believe that is at the crux of the issue. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this world—and all the corruptness in it—is a pathetic attempt at being “good,” let alone perfect.

We live in a fallible world with fallible people, yet we don’t adjust our expectations to modern day reality because we are hardwired for perfection.

So what is the answer? 

For some of us, part of solving this problem is learning to lower our expectations and to extend grace to others. What is crucial is how we handle the distance between our expectations and reality. When I am faced with imperfections in other people, I have a choice. I can choose to become disappointed and disillusioned…or I can use the disappointment to deepen my appreciation for my heavenly Father who IS perfect.

Our longing for perfection will eventually be fulfilled in heaven, but while we are in this world, our satisfaction of perfection comes from Christ alone. He is the only One who is perfect.

Brianna Mullett


4 Responses

  1. Ed says:

    This is so true! Disappointments, heartbreak, even my slight OCD, and especially that deep longing for something this world cannot give is truly a sign that we were made for perfection Himself. He is the author and Perfector of our faith, and our existence.

  2. Nadine Stutzman says:

    Brianna, your words are so true and I appreciate your boldness to share. Thank you and God bless you as you serve your family and those God brings in your path. Sincerely, Nadine

  3. Duane & Cindy says:

    Thanks for your comment, Ed. You are right on…

  4. Duane & Cindy says:

    Thank you, Nadine, for your words of blessing to me.

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