Excellence vs. Perfectionism
When I was a young girl I somehow got the idea that I had to be good at everything… that I had to be perfect. My mom was concerned because I was a perfectionist by the time I was only eight years old! If I got a 99 and not a 100 on a test in school, I would feel stomach distress. My mom wasn’t infusing perfectionism into me, and neither was God. He understands how weak we are; he knows we are only dust (Psalm 103:14 NLT). But I would never allow myself to let myself down.
I began to see the same pattern developing in my daughter, Jordan, when she was eight or nine years old. One day I said to her, “Jordan, go mess up your room.” Now most mothers are saying to their children, “Go clean up your room.” But I didn’t want her to be under a lot of pressure. I wanted her to learn to relax and enjoy herself.
Sometimes children process things differently than we intend for them to. And because Jordan was a straight-A student and I would talk about how she had always been a straight-A student, she began to think, Mommy won’t be pleased with me if I’m not perfect. Without realizing it, I was putting pressure on her.
There’s a difference between having a spirit of excellence and being a perfectionist. Galatians 6:4 NLT says, Be sure to do what you should, for then you will enjoy the personal satisfaction of having done your work well, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. God does not expect us to be perfect, but to be the best we can be…to have a spirit of excellence without the kind of pressure that destroys. This gives us balance in our lives.