Is Perfectionism a Negative Concept?


A reader asked the following: 

The problem I'm having with the messaging I'm hearing (in the greater world view) about perfectionism is that it is singled out as being negative. How can it be negative when God calls us to a life of perfection? 

After contemplation, here is my response. Tell me what YOU think.

The negative "perfectionism" that is being mentioned is characterized by an unattainable standard of flawlessness or an excessive concern over making mistakes. It is often characterized as fear of failure and relentless self-criticism. Perfectionists often judge themselves harshly and may struggle with feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and depression when they inevitably fall short of their own unrealistic standards. 

On the other hand, the perfection we are called to in the Bible in Greek is the word "teleios,"  which is translated as "complete" or "whole." It suggests striving for spiritual maturity and wholeness rather than flawlessness in every aspect of life. 

The key difference between perfectionism and the divine call to perfection lies in their underlying motivations and implications. External pressures, societal expectations, or personal insecurities frequently lead to a fear-based mindset that underlies perfectionism. It often focuses on outward appearances, achievements, and performance metrics. Perfectionists may believe that their worth is contingent upon meeting these impossible standards, leading to a constant cycle of striving, stress, and dissatisfaction.

The call to perfection, as understood in spiritual teachings, emphasizes inner transformation and alignment with divine principles. It's about striving to embody virtues like love, compassion, forgiveness, and humility. Rather than obsessing over flawlessness, it invites us to cultivate a deeper relationship with God, pursue spiritual growth, and align our lives with His will.

While perfectionism can be detrimental to mental and emotional well-being, the pursuit of spiritual perfection offers a path to inner peace, fulfillment, and spiritual wholeness. It encourages self-acceptance, recognizing that humans are inherently imperfect beings who are nevertheless capable of growth, learning, and transformation through divine grace.

The difference between perfectionism and the call to perfection lies in their focus: one on external standards and the other on internal transformation; one on fear and anxiety, and the other on love and spiritual fulfillment.


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