Excellence Versus Perfectionism

Tuesday Testimony

Being  a perfectionist myself (or maybe even a little obsessive compulsive), I know what it’s like to deal with something needing to be absolutely perfect. I remember times I would break down and cry because of a tiny mistake I would make.  In college I drove my professors crazy with it.  If I didn’t get something absolutely right, there would be drama to deal with from me!  I do not admit this to you all lightly.  My obsessive tendencies are not something I am always proud of, but I have learned to not only accept them as a gift that God has given me, but I’ve also discovered the balance.

The truth finally hit me when I was reading a book assigned to me in class during college.  It is called The Heart of the Artist, by Rory Noland.  If you are in ministry or are an artist (musician, painter, actor ect..) then you absolutely must read this book.  Chapter four is by far my favorite chapter because it had the most impact on me.

Perfectionism can destroy relationships if it is not kept in check.  I finally found out that I couldn’t be perfect and get everything right. Only God is perfect, but I can be excellent.  I also learned to accept who I was.  God forms us and gives us the personalities we have for a reason.  Some people are stubborn.  God can use this if they will become stubborn against the Devil and work towards good.  Some people are adventurous.  God can use this for missionary work or even for other creative purposes.  Some people don’t like to get out a lot, but they love cooking and making things.  God can use this to bring gifts and blessings to other people.  And some people are perfectionists, me included, and God can use this if we will work hard to make things excellent for Him.

Taking perfectionism too far was emotionally draining for me and hurt those that were around me.  The biggest problem with it is that we focus too much on the negative and not enough on the positive.   Self-esteem becomes based on our performance instead of on who we are in Christ.  Expectations are so high, that we can’t possibly achieve them.  Now that I focus more on being as excellent as I can, I am shall we say a lot more stable emotionally.  And I believe that God is more honored with my efforts!

If you are a perfectionist, I encourage you to focus on the positive, set realistic expectations, let God love you, love yourself, be kind to yourself (in other words cut yourself some slack), and pursue excellence not perfection.  And of course, please get a copy of Rory Noland’s The Heart of the Artist.

Here is a poetical excerpt from the book:

I cringe every time you cut yourself down
You hide your pain like it doesn’t count
So when I hear you laugh are you cryin’ deep inside
‘Cause you fall below the standards in your mind
Though you’d never deny our God’s a loving God
You feel He turns away when you make mistakes
But our heavenly Father nurtures His own
To Him you matter more than you’ll ever know

So let the Lord love you
Let His voice be heard above the rest
Hold on to what you know is true
And let the Lord love you.

~Rory Noland

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  1. You have absolutely no idea how much I needed that today.

    Thank You

  2. Wow, I JUST got done emailing a friend I havent talked to in a long time from back home, and I was telling her all about my sorry life. Then I decided to check your site before I go read my bible for the night and came across this little column. I cant believe how fitting it is. I too am a total perfectionist and it was so nice to read this. Thank you and I think I may get this book, although I’m not involved with any ministries nor am I an artist. Do you think the book would still relate to me?

    • While the book is geared mainly towards the artist’s heart, I honestly think everyone should read it! It is the best book I have ever read, and I always recommend it! I hope you get it and enjoy it!

  3. TTM, I was just reading through your Tuesday Testimonies and found this entry to be amazing. My husband just got a copy of The Heart of the Artist a few months ago at a thrift store. My husband and I both have read it and been greatly moved by it. And your favorite chapter on perfectionism is also my own. We have read several books for Christian artists and worship leaders and this one seems to be the most detailed and helpful when it comes to handling human challenges to serving the Lord. Thank you for your writing on this subject.

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