The Cycle of Perfectionism

Love is something we all long for and crave, whether it’s from our friends, from family, from our significant others, or from God. No one wants to feel like they’re not valued or loved or cherished, especially if they make the effort to love and care for others.

An obstacle to love that I’ve observed in my life and also in the lives of those around me is all-too-consuming perfectionism that can go unnoticed and usually goes unchecked.

Perfectionism is defined as the “refusal to accept any standard short of perfection”, and unfortunately, this is a factor in many relationships. Instead of allowing their loved ones to mess up and make mistakes, many expect perfection and a completion of all their “requirements” to gain their love and affection.

I am also guilty of allowing perfectionism to affect my relationships. What I have found is that a lot of my perfectionism stems from insecurity and fear of not being loved as deeply as I desire. When someone I love makes a mistake or does something that disappoints or upsets me, I take it to the extreme- not because I think they’re awful human beings, but because I’m afraid that it means they don’t love me or won’t always treat me right. I turn one mistake into an entire war.

This perfectionism occurs in a cycle. I not only expect perfection from the people I love, but I also expect perfection from myself for the people I love. I’m afraid that I’m not good enough for their love, and then when it seems true, I turn it on them by saying they’re not good enough for MY love. Only bitterness and anger ensues.

The truth we need to grasp and firmly believe is this: We do not need to earn people’s love and we have no right to expect others to earn ours.

What I believe and want to suggest to you is that in order to break the chains and cycle of perfectionism, we need to first find the source of our perfectionism that is affecting us (i.e. insecurity, fear, bitterness) and then run to Jesus with what we find so he can give us the love and power to break the perfectionism we affect others with.

Because Jesus is perfect, all that He does is perfect. That includes perfect love. He is the quintessence of the love that we all crave and desire. Oftentimes, the problem is that we either don’t believe this or we don’t put much stock into this because we’d rather have earthly, imperfect, prone-to-fail love. It doesn’t make much sense when it’s spelled out like that, but when it comes to love, many things don’t. Why do we look to people to fulfill and satisfy us when only Jesus can? Jesus never asks us to earn His love; in fact, His love has already been freely given to us. Nothing we could ever say or do could change that.

God is love… There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:15,18-19)

Once we let Jesus transform us from perfectionist beings to accepting-of-imperfection-ist beings, we then will be able to love people freely. This transformation only takes place when we grow in faith of His unfailing, perfect love for us.

Furthermore, when we love people freely, we then free them from expecting perfection from themselves, which helps discontinue the cycle that is occurring in many lives all around us. But the process starts with ourselves.

I warn you, the process is long and there will be many days, even months or years, where it’ll feel like nothing’s changing. One argument or fight or bad day can convince you that you’ll never change. My friends, this is a lie from satan. No chains are too strong for Christ. He can break every single one of them, and to think that one bad day or a string of bad days can change that is to doubt the power and freeing love of Christ.

We need to run to Jesus with our burdens and then let Him do the work in us. It will overflow into our relationships with others once we do. It will take time and patience, humility and self-searching, but it is all too worth it.

I hope this is of value to some of my readers. I certainly hope my experience and ability to relate encourages those who are suffering from relational perfectionism in some way, shape, or form. Perfectionism, whether diagnosed or just an undiagnosed observed part of your life, is able to be defeated and we can choose to end this cycle- not by our power alone, but through the power of Jesus Christ in us.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

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