What’s the difference between perfectionism and excellence?

There is a strong theme throughout the bible that challenges believers to walk in excellence as followers of Christ. But, when I personally began working in ministry, this expectation filled me with anxiety – fearing that my own inabilities would lead to rejection from others if I was not being the most excellent Christian possible. This stemmed from a lie telling me that since Jesus died for me, I could no longer be struggling with insecurity. But, because I am human, I was struggling. And because I was struggling, I began to view this call to excellence as a demand for perfectionism.

I placed my value on what I thought others thought of me based on my actions…

The reason my heart translated excellence into anxiety-ridden, doubting, and insecure perfectionism, was because I placed my value on what I thought others thought of me based on my actions, instead of who God made me to be. This mindset affected me even in my private times with the Lord. I lived more in fear of someone asking about how I spent my time with God, rather than sitting in reverence toward God Himself. As I began to recognize my lack of peace and heightened insecurities, I worried that others would see through my façade.  That’s when I felt God expose that I had come to believe that His death on the cross was not enough to cover my imperfections. And if I believed that, then I was believing I wasn’t valuable enough for the price He paid for me to have life. Essentially I was saying that what Jesus thought wasn’t as valuable to me as the opinions of others – that what He had done by taking on my sin, brokenness, and shame is not enough, and somehow I arrogantly thought I could do better.

As Jesus gently led me to see what I was believing, the reality of where my heart was at hit me like a ton of bricks. What I had twisted as an expectation over my life as a Christian, was actually keeping me from fully realizing the depth and gravity of freedom which Jesus paid for me to have. He did not give His life for me to be perfect in my actions, but He gave His perfect life so that I could be loved and valued by Him in the midst of my imperfections.

So how are we to walk in excellence?

Excellence is achieved simply by doing the best that one can do for the sake of another person.

In recognizing His grace over my “performance” as a Christian, I still wondered how I was supposed to walk in excellence while also residing within my imperfect humanity. Even though Christ has grace for my mistakes or shortcomings, I still have a call to be a representative of a perfect God. The perfectionism I had striven for was for my own selfish benefit. In it, my heart was striving for others to recognize and praise me, not the God I was representing. This state of the heart will suck the life out of anyone attempting to do ministry within its borders. Excellence, on the other hand, is a direct rebellion of the perfectionism mind-set. Instead of seeking the benefit of oneself, pursuing excellence comes from the desire to benefit those you are serving. Excellence is achieved simply by doing the best that one can do for the sake of another person. This heart position brings life simply because it reflects God’s love and value towards those being served, while also covering those walking in excellence with His grace to do so.

I am not perfect. I have been (and still am) coming to a place of seeing my lack of perfection as a gift. Not because I am praising my sin or brokenness, but because that’s what continuously points me to my undeniable need for Christ’s grace, which teaches me how be more like Him.

Tired of striving for perfection?

Come join us for a Discipleship Training School where you can learn about God’s infinite grace and how to make the shift to serving others with excellence.

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At YWAM Montana-Lakeside, we are all about doing whatever it takes to know God and to make Him known, together! We’d love to help you make that next step in your global missions education. Apply now!

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