The Spiritual Roots of Perfectionism

We all want our brain surgeon (or car mechanic) to do a perfect job but when he (or she)  comes home to control, manipulate, dominate or hassle human beings, the trouble begins.

The Bible refers to this behavior as “witchcraft.”  It is the attempt to manage a situation by calling on someone other than God to be in charge.  The quotation is from I Samuel 15.

So Samuel said:

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.

Stubbornness is as witchcraft.  The Old Testament is full of references to seeking other gods for guidance, to idols for spells and witches’ brews as one finds even today in modern societies.

Perfectionism is wrongly believed to be an action; in fact, it is a reaction to a situation when someone loses control.  No one begins life as a control freak but in the course of human life all men learn that they are not perfect and they can’t control many events and persons around them. It starts with dissatisfaction.  In the garden the snake intimated that God was not being fair with the First Pair, that they needed to seek more information.  The snake said God was hiding the truth, and in fact God was, a truth about evil that He had hoped they could avoid.  And when the fruit was consumed, their reaction tells it all.  ONE denial, TWO blame.

Men’s reactions have not changed.  Here is the passage to refresh your mind.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”  (Make no mistake. God absolutely knows where everyone is.”)

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Eve blamed the devil and Adam blamed God and the woman.  Yes, nothing has changed.

These days it may be dissatisfaction with relationships, with our own inability, or the constant harping of someone else.  There are “men pleasers” who seek acceptance from other people over everything else;  God is supposed to define who you are not other people.  One reason is that other people will often get it wrong!  If we allow other people to mold our personality we spend a lifetime looking for favor outside of ourselves,  but you’ll find these mentors are never satisfied either; they are insecure and your imperfections will only convince them more that you are wrong because you don’t make them feel right.   Multiple marriages can result.

At fault is our comparing ourselves to other people.  It happens anyway – “Why can’t you be a good student like your older sister?”  Many a poor teacher has said that to a child.    And children may believe they will be adopted out if they are not perfect.  Or sent away.  God is not in this, period!

God has a plan for your life and he is not comparing you to anyone or anything beyond His very own plan.  Wise is he who finds it.

Dissatisfaction with one’s life can lead to three actions:

1.  Permanent depression and focus on regrets and failures of the past

2.  Incremental changes in one’s own life rejecting the control of others and acceptance of ones self.

3.  Ever-increasing attempts to control one’s environment and the people, things and events in it.  These are the difficult ones.

Symptoms:

1.  Every item in their possession or dwelling is in the exact same place and in perfect order.  Sleeping with the Enemy is a movie about a man gone berserk to the point of psychosis.

2.  Nothing that produces contradiction or disorder is permitted.  You’re free to leave if you don’t like it.

3.  God’s will and occasionally even simple truth is not allowed.

4.  Self-will is on the throne of that person’s life.

5. Everyone and everything else is to blame. We’re back to the Garden now.

So to review the spiritual issues here.  I BOLDED them all in the text above.

  • dissatisfaction
  • hiding from God, behind the church or deeds
  • fear
  • self-will
  • avoidance or refusal to hear truth
  • seek praise of others
  • stubbornness, refusal to change
  • blame
  • over emphasis on things
  • denial of a problem, of having sinned or disobeyed
  • substituting good deeds for obedience

Perfectionists are wonderful, competent people who do well and are valuable members of any community.  But we don’t save ourselves, and ultimately perfectionists are seeking for their outside to change and then perfect their inside.  When they burden others with their demands is when they become odious.

God has given us a savior,  Yeshua aka Jesus, and He alone can do the job.  It is a lesson for us all to learn.

3 responses to “The Spiritual Roots of Perfectionism

  1. Linda J. Morris

    It leaves much for pondering.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Am so thankful Jesus blood paid for this sin of control and witchcraft. With His grace I can overcome

    Like

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