Avoiding the Perfectionism Trap

Pete Scazzero: “Part of what makes us human is our imperfections and mistakes. Only God is perfect.”

Pursuing excellence in our leadership is a good thing. Perfectionism is not.

Perfectionism, that refusal to accept a standard short of perfection, is the shadow side of excellence—undermining the best of who we are, limiting our ability to love and damaging our leadership of others.

How do I know? I know perfectionism so well in myself. Part of what makes us human is our imperfections and mistakes. Only God is perfect.

Related: 4 characteristics of an emotionally unhealthy leader »

At times I wonder if the church, in our desire to reach the world for Jesus, has hired a Pharaoh of perfectionism to help us. Sadly, many of us don’t need an external slave driver. We carry our own internal Pharaoh who drives us not to accept flaws and blemishes in our performance.

The following are my top 10 signs that God uses to stop me when I fall into the sin of perfectionism:

1. I am anxious—a lot.

2. I am impatient with the mistakes of others, and even more impatient with myself.

3. I reach my goals and I am still not content.

4. I overfunction, doing for others what they can and should do for themselves.

5. I rarely play, relax or laugh with my co-workers and team.

6. I am treating people as an “It” (i.e., a means to an end) and not a “thou” (i.e., unrepeatable human beings).

7. I am not spending time being still before the Lord and letting things go.

8. I forget to be thankful for the small victories and progress.

9. I spend more time thinking about excellence in sermons, programs, etc. than trusting in Jesus’ abundance.

From Outreach Magazine  Why Does God Let Us Keep Struggling Against Sin?

10. I fail to remind myself regularly: God is God and I am not. It is human to make mistakes.

Which of these stands out most to you? What might you add for your own list.

Pete Scazzero is the founder of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York, and the author of two best-selling books: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and The Emotionally Healthy Church. This story was originally posted on Scazzero’s blog at EmotionallyHealthy.org.

Check out Outreach magazine’s interview with Scazzero, “Emotionally Healthy Leadership” »