As someone who has fallen prey to the trap of perfectionism in the past, I had always found it a little confusing when reading about excellence as I used to think they were the same thing. But on my journey, I have discovered they are very different.
Perfectionism has its roots in self. At its core it is a form of pride fullness as it is thinking we can do things perfectly in our own strength. It somehow wants to project an image, whether intentional or not, that I can do it on my own. It really is a slave driver that demands, “You must get everything right to be worthy of praise, acceptance, admiration, love and respect.”
Bill Johnson states in his book, Dreaming with God, “Excellence is the high standard set for personal achievement because of who we are in God, and who God is in us. It is not the same as perfectionism. Perfectionism is the cruel counterfeit of excellence...”
Perfectionism is works based, whereas excellence is grace-based.
Excellence is breathed from heaven and invites us to have a kingdom-mentality.
When we know who we are in Christ and that we are loved, accepted, adored, cherished and chosen because we are heaven’s sons and daughters we can truly relax in his presence and carry that through into our daily lives. We do not have to continually ‘earn’ our place. So that means we do not have to earn our worth by being perfect. This does not mean we are to slacken off, but rather we can approach life from a different place. We are seeing things through a different lens.
Spirit of excellence
Where perfectionism is thinking we can do it on our own, a spirit of excellence is knowing we cannot do it on our own and rather we rely on God’s help, favour, grace, and strength. Excellence is very much a heart issue.
Colossians chapter three verse 23
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.”
This is having a heart of excellence.
As His sons and daughters, we are living before God and not man. We ultimately live before an audience of one and for God’s approval and not man’s approval.
Galatians chapter one verse 10
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
We therefore do our very best and put in our everything; effort, integrity, dignity and aim to do every small and big act with excellence as before the Lord, all the while knowing we are wrapped in His grace.
“Don’t let the things get in the way of the thing’
This may mean saying no to some things and yes to other things.
It is not doing ‘everything’ even ‘good’ things just because somebody else wants us to do them, or we want to look a certain way or prove a certain point. Instead, we are doing the thing God has called us to do. It is being directed by the Holy Spirit in our daily lives and asking him to show us, guide us and lead us.
This will look different to each of us which is why we need to learn to listen to his voice.
As a former perfectionist I cannot explain how much freedom comes when having a heart of excellence rather than striving for perfection becomes the truth in which to live life.
Jo Fuller lives on the beautiful Sunshine Coast with her husband, son and daughter. Jo is a teacher with an education in journalism and early childhood who loves to spend time with her family and enjoys reading and writing whenever she can.