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The Spiritual Roots of Perfectionism

Print Friendly and PDFWe 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. You may not get involved with potions and spells and simply become the witch yourself! Control freaks are usually unpopular.

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.

Lack of gratitude

It starts with dissatisfaction.  Romans 1 begins the descent into depravity as not being grateful followed by dissatisfaction and complaining. Adults were surprised when the international women’s soccer champions were expected to rejoice in their victory and instead complained about being victims. They wanted more money.  https://www.theepochtimes.com/c-sports They are not likely to get it. When you show disrespect for the fans who pay the bills you degrade yourself and your sport.  And victims they are not.

The snake proposed ingratitude and blame

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 both 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!

Comparing yourself to others is foolish

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

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.

For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

If God called you to be a singer why are you trying so hard to be a tennis champion? Finding your call is important and keeps you from futile actions. Some of the most interesting biographies are of people who had to leave home and never see their families again because their parents wanted them in a job where they were not called or unsuitable.  John Denver is just such as person. After he became famous he was able to rejoin his family that expected him to be a soldier.

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 people.


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
  • occasionally obsession with cleanliness

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 first and then make 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.

Dealing with the Devil

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Bible reading is essential to our growth as believers – not because it beats us over the head with our sin. That is the devil’s job and he is good at it. Then the World and the flesh join in with him too.

No – the Bible informs us of the nature and work of Christ in our lives – how to shed the shame, rejection and blame that is the world’s daily diet. Take the topic of abortion.

40,000,000 babies have been aborted in the USA since it was made legal which means all of us know someone, perhaps more than one, who has been there. We know that it leaves scars and that women esp. feel they cannot be forgiven – yet another lie of the devil.

The Bible does two things – it opens up our understanding of God’s unlimited love and available forgiveness and it helps us shed the unloving, unforgiving world which surrounds us.

Once God has forgiven people and they have forgiven themselves, then God can bring peace. The Bible also says that men who procreate children willy-nilly are also held accountable as fathers and they too, as well as mothers, will get to know any lost children in heaven – either an abortion or a miscarriage.

That is one of the best stories in the book – Heaven is for Real. I lost two children – one a miscarriage and the other lived less than 1 day. I often wonder – what are they doing now in heaven? I’ll find out someday.

Sad people who cannot forgive themselves or others easily sink into a depressed stew, or drink or entertainment, when all the while a Bible sits idly by with every answer to every question man has asked.

Satan’s job is not only to accuse; he accuses the brethren night and day, but to tempt and to lie. The Bible specifically tells us not to compare ourselves with others. 2 Corinthians 10:12 “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”

Luke 4 1 Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into[a] the wilderness, 2 being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.
3 And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
4 But Jesus answered him, saying,[b] “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’”[c]
5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him[d] all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”
8 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan![e] For[f] it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”[g]
9 Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: ‘ He shall give His angels charge over you,To keep you,’ 11 and, ‘ In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”[h]

12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’”[i]

Notice Jesus answered every issue with the written Word of God. So can you. He tried this on Jesus and now he is working on us, often times through TV programs, our coworkers, our friends. But if we look into His word, we see our selves as in a mirror and then can know who we really are and quote it back to him – and yourself when you need to hear it again.

James 1:23-24

What is the 1st Sign of Sin?

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Self-justification is the first sign of sin, according to Martin Luther. Of course he was not speaking out of order – the Bible’s first sinners did exactly that. Here is the story.

After Adam and Eve ate the fruit (maybe an apricot – they are grown in North Africa) and in doing so openly disobeyed the clear command of God, both Adam and Eve blamed someone or something else. Adam had the nerve to actually blame both Eve and God.

Genesis 3:12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” [The wife then blamed the snake]. 13 And the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Was she deceived? Yes, but there was something in her (a basic sin nature) that wanted the forbidden item so badly that she was willing to listen in spite of knowing what was right and wrong.

From that day to this, it is exactly the same for all human kind.

The smallest child whines – brother made me do it…or it is HER fault. My boss made me do it. My friends all had this great idea. I didn’t want to be involved, so let me out of jail.

Divorce is frequently two people blaming each other. This blaming business can go to wicked extremes. Some rapists will say, “She wanted me to rape her.” This fellow will soon learn in prison what real rape is all about.

Nothing beats politics. Blame for everything from no jobs to high taxes belongs at the other party’s door.

A corollary question is this: How do you know when someone is grown up? When he or she assumes complete responsibility for his behavior. Is that true of you?

Can You Handle Rejection?

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One of the ways we know the Bible is being misinterpreted is when the theologians (and others) blame God for what is going on, or in the case of poor Cain and Abel, insist that one is saved by “good works” or simply, saved by works, period. cainandabel753812_960_720 St. Paul spent a good deal of time on this topic, even going so far as to say that those who return to a works-salvation are placing themselves under a curse. (Galatians 3:10-13)

The story of these two brothers comes early in Genesis because the rest of history will be about wars between brothers, and then non-brothers and on and on.  God expects from all of us a portion of our “increase” that is the Biblical word, to honor Him as the generous God making all of life possible and profitable.  Abel brought a present from his flock, but Cain was a farmer and brought some grain. (Genesis 4:1-16)

The redactors have us believe that it was all because God expected a blood sacrifice not a loaf of bread.  But that does not match the holy book.  God has instructed us to bring of our first fruits.  Apparently Cain has no animal stock.  and as a farmer and brought the best of that. There is no record that God condemned the offering from the field. In fact later on we read of a bread offering under the Law.

And he was rejected.  No, God is not pulling a fast one here.  He has not indicated that some form of gift is preferable to another.  I would remind those of you reading this now that you may be an artist, or a housewife, or a parent, or an office worker.  What you bring to the Lord’s table is the best job that you can do for your employer and for yourself  Can you say to God – this is the very best that I can do?  I sometimes wonder about people whose only gift to the church is some old clothes for the poor.  Gee thanks.

The Bible says the poor need money not clothing,  But that is for another day.

Genesis is full of tests.  First Adam and Eve get sidetracked.  Now these two brothers have a test.  Will Abel gloat over his brother and say, “Nah Nah” God accepted my gift and not yours?  Will Cain realize that his reaction to being rejected is on trial here?

I’ve had many successes in life but I learned lots more from my failures.  I’ve been severely rejected a dozen times, all very painful and sometimes very costly.  I’ve been lied about and slandered.  One man even traveled to the West Coast to assure someone that I was a liar because the donor had $38000 for him.  God remembers this by the way.  He will repay.

But back to Cain.  Here is his chance to examine what happened.  He muses, “Did I do something wrong, or did I just not check thoroughly on what God wanted?  Is this a test of my believing God?”

Look around you.  Is not a lot of politics “murdering” another – their reputation, their home, their finances – in order to win public applause and recognition? Dan Rather allowed bitterness lead him into revenge which backfired and he was forced to retire.

The Bible says Cain failed this test.  Instead of realizing this was his test, he believed it was a competition with Abel.  No,  God does not set up competitions between his people.  We compete against ourselves. Paul speaks of going for a prize, but not against another person, but against his own call from God.  Cain looked at his situation in envy and bitterness.  The Bible says we are not to allow a root of bitterness, revenge and blame to arise among us.  (Hebrews 12:15) But this happened and he murdered his brother.

He failed the Reaction Test. His lesson can be ours.  We look at the Bible and think all our tests are what we do or fail to do – our actions.  But God wants our reactions to be holy as well. What is yours?

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