Perfectionism Bondage vs. Biblical Excellence – What’s the Difference?

Many who battle perfectionism, may hear a thought screaming, “But doesn’t God want our best?”

Of course He does. The problem is that legalism has entered and placed a performance pressure on us that burdens us with standards that torment rather than empower us. Rather than releasing us into daily rest, we become driven to achieve. Yet that driveness is never satisfied, so contentment is never cultivated. We have to be very careful that we do not sacrifice contentment and inward peace on the alter of producing what we have been trained see to as “perfect” results.

So how do I know if I am in perfectionistic bondage or just simply being perfected as the Bible teaches? What helps me to know if I am following bondage or simply walking in excellence?

Perfectionism needs to be contrasted from biblical excellence. Excellence as we often define it in Turning Hearts is giving the best with what you have and where you are at. Under the mindset of excellence, we give all or ourselves, but we are not under bondage and torment in the process. There is a different spirit behind perfectionism than walking in true biblical excellence.

Perfectionism vs. Biblical Excellence

The difference between these two realities often comes comes down to how we handle mistakes. Processing mistakes is a key issue in our generation. How well do we handle mistakes in ourselves? How well do we handle mistakes in others? This is often where we can see if we are in perfectionism bondage.

Do You Learn Through Your Mistakes?

We do not really learn the most from successes. Yet we have the opportunity to learn so much through mistakes. The problem is that so many are paralyzed by the fear of making a mistake, that when we err, the torment is debilitating. Because of this, we often avoid taking risks or stepping out into uncharted territory. The insecurities within us flare up, telling us to stay as far away from any failure or mistakes as possible, for that would be the end of the world.

Judgmentalism

In addition, our culture is so infiltrated in perfectionistic standards that we are ready to stone someone in judgment the moment they begin to show flaws. Because of this, so many are held back in life and they are tormented by a fear of making mistakes. In addition, perfectionists see mistakes as defects that make them unacceptable.

Contrasting Perfectionism Bondage and Biblical Excellence

Let’s take a moment to understand the differences so that we can discern when perfectionism is in operation in our thinking and behavior. 

Perfectionism’s Mindset: 

1. In perfectionism, the value of a person is dependent upon performance. In other words, who you are is completely based on what you do, therefore a great deal of pressure depends on how well you perform in life.

2. Under the influence of perfectionism, goals are set for yourself and others that are unreasonable and often impossible. This opens the door for too much pressure to be taken on at the jump. This is what leads to easy disappointment and anger down the road.

3. The motivation behind perfectionism is the fear of failure. It drives and motivates you relentlessly.

4. Perfectionism remains tirelessly focused on mistakes and failures while discounting and minimizing successes. The mistakes become magnified while the good things become occluded from view and unappreciated. Even when huge victories come, perfectionism places a higher burden for the next time.

5. Those with perfectionism strongholds in their life take criticism personally and have a constant need to defend themselves. They become trained to over-react over issues that should not be taken so strongly.

6. Perfectionism trains us to constantly dread the future, because the pressure alone is draining in itself. Because of this, we can never enjoy anything.

7. Perfectionism leaves us spiraling in depression when we or others fail or slip up.

8. A person with perfectionism immerses his identity and security in the results that happen around him. His sense of well being is deeply connected to the results.

9. The end result for a perfectionist = burnout. They think a vacation will help, but it only provides a temporary band-aid. What they often do not understand is that what they need for change to take place is a complete overhaul. Everything has to change to get free from perfectionism.

The Freeing Mindset of Biblical Excellence: 

In direct contrast,

1. Biblical excellence teaches us that believers are all accepted by God who gave us our value as His children. We could never earn it. That acceptance fuels us with His grace to walk out a life of effectiveness with nothing to prove. Who we are is not what we DO. WHO WE ARE IS what we do.

2. In Biblical Excellence you put your whole heart into it, but you leave all the results in God’s hands. We are not in control of the results. We are only responsible to show up and be present to offer who we are to the world.

3. In Biblical Excellence, we are motivated by the love and acceptance God has given us.

2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ compels us . . .

4. When we walk in Biblical Excellence, we learn from our mistakes and put them behind us.

Philippians 3:13-14
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

If you notice, the Bible describes someone who cannot handle correction a scoffer (Proverbs 9:8-9). They are fools that resist correction and not teachable in their ways. Quite often in perfectionistic thinking, we can become blocked from healthy correction that can lead us into greater fruit. Often the correction will involve needing to release ourselves of the pressure that gets carried on our backs.

5. In Biblical Excellence, we recover strongly from mistakes. In simple terms, mistakes are not the end, but a step to learning more and growing.
Proverbs 24:16
For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity.

6. With the mindset of Biblical Excellence, we become excited about future challenges, knowing that God has our back all the way through and will empower us to grow and overcome. 

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

7. With a mindset of Biblical Excellence, we receive the comfort of God and choose to hope in God in all things. Therefore we have no need to constantly spiral in discouragement.

Psalm 42:5 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.

8. When we understand Biblical Excellence, we learn in all ways to be content. Contentment creates a gratitude within us whereby we can never be defeated by discouraging events or occurrences around us. We are also not thrown by what is or is not happening in our lives. Contentment is always joyful for everything God has done!

Philippians 4:11 for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content

9. The end result of someone who walk in Biblical Excellence = rest.

Hebrews 4:11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest . . .

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

 Question: Where do you hunger to see more of Biblical Excellence operating in your life? 

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Mark DeJesus has served as an experienced communicator since the 1990s. As a teacher, author, transformational consultant and radio host, Mark is deeply passionate about awakening hearts and equipping people towards personal transformation. He is gifted in helping people address the core issues that become limitations to their God given identity and destiny. He is the author of numerous books and hundreds of teachings. Mark and his wife host a weekly online show called Transformed You and he writes at markdejesus.com. His articles have been featured on sites like CharismaMag.com and Patheos.com. Mark and his wife Melissa enjoy each other and their precious children Maximus and Abigail.

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