When Your Definition of Perfection Is Too Small

“You can never do anything all the way right.”

It’s a line I wrote sarcastically while joking with a friend. The trouble is, it stuck with me and my perfectionist ways. 

“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” backs up the notion (Romans 3:23)

But those of us bent toward perfectionism want to do things all the way right, and we usually feel like we’ve failed if we can see any “room for improvement” left. We loathe the “never enough” even though we know we can’t and won’t be perfect. 

When we try to be perfect on our own anyway, even to honor Jesus, we’re reducing our concept of perfection down to something we might *if we’re really good enough* be able to attain. 

As perfectionists, our definition of perfection is way too small.

As perfectionists, our definition of perfection is way too small... Click To Tweet
  1. Perfection has no blind spots.

Reading about idolatry in the Old Testament can make us snicker- who worships a God that was made, is easily manipulated, and has eyes but doesn’t see? Why would you expect God-like abilities from anything flawed and temporal and limited? Yet we expect these things of ourselves- the same people who have eyes but miss stop signs and can’t remember the color of the shirt we wore yesterday.

The only way to be perfect is to know everything, love everyone, forget nothing, and be all-powerful (plus a bunch of other traits we can hardly fathom.) How else could you maintain flawless justice and unconditional love? How else could you not accidentally make some mistake or fail just because something around you went wrong?

You and I don’t have these traits or abilities. Jesus does. Praise Him, His perfection entails and encompasses more than we can even compare to the best this world- or ourselves- have to offer (Isaiah 40:25). 

  1. Jesus doesn’t have to figure things out.

With our expectations of self raised too high and our definition of perfection set too low, we feel like needing to figure things out is failing. There’s an endless sense that if we just knew this or that, we wouldn’t mess up. The problem is we’re still in process. Fortunately, Jesus calls us to “grow in grace” (2 Peter 3:18). He doesn’t condemn us for learning and all the mess that comes along the way- nor is He surprised by it. 

Jesus doesn’t have to figure anything out. He already knows. That’s good news for us perfectionists- we don’t have to know. Google doesn’t have to know. Jesus knows, and He isn’t wielding His knowledge over us, waiting for us to catch up. 

  1. My insufficiency points to His sufficiency.

Perfectionism puts our eyes on ourselves instead of on Jesus, constantly measuring and assessing our own performance. Sadly, our striving to be enough directs others’ eyes to us instead of Him, too. 

The gift of knowing we're insufficient but have a sufficient Savior is seeing in our own limitations the glory of Christ's limitlessness. Click To Tweet

The gift of knowing we’re insufficient but have a sufficient Savior is seeing in our own limitations the glory of Christ’s limitlessness. When God puts the great treasure of Jesus in us fragile jars of clay, He does it “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

We get to do our best and then say, “my best isn’t even the half of it, look at Jesus’ (love, kindness, attention to detail, etc!)” The joy of recognizing our definition of perfection needs expanding is discovering there’s so much more to Him and His glory, and that get to share Him.


It's All Under Control by Jennifer Dukes Lee is a tremendously helpful book for perfectionists (at least for this one!) Plus, Jennifer's a wonderful, gentle, honest writer. I'm super excited for her upcoming book, Growing Slow.

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup,  #TeaAndWord, #TellHisStory#RechargeWednesday, #Heart Encouragement, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

10 Replies to “When Your Definition of Perfection Is Too Small

  1. Such good thoughts, Bethany. I love how you use our “never-enough-ness” to highlight God’s perfection and self-sufficiency. And I also am very much looking forward to reading “Growing Slow.” 😉

  2. I have been thinking about perfectionism lately too, Bethany. I love your honest and thoughtful writing on the subject. Our definition of perfection is much, much too small. We can never hope to achieve true perfection. God’s grace and his glory are truly perfect.

    1. Glad I’m not the only one thinking about this, Laurie! He is perfect, and that means so much. Thanks for joining in and sharing in His praise with me!

  3. 2 Cor. 4:7 has been a favorite portion of mine. It is surely “a gift to know we’re insufficient but have a sufficient Savior is seeing in our own limitations the glory of Christ’s limitlessness.”

    1. It’s a favorite verse of mine too, Joanne! Thanks for stopping by, may God be glorified in our weakness!

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