dealing with perfectionism, bible verses about perfectionism

Dealing with Perfectionism: 11 Helpful Bible verses about perfectionism

Do you struggle with perfectionism? Are you seeking bible verses about perfectionism to help you overcome the nagging sense of constant striving.

Maybe you are the child of a perfectionist, or you are one yourself. Either way, it isn’t a simple matter of striving for the best. Perfectionistic striving can become toxic as you hold yourself to a standard that doesn’t accept anything less than perfection. 

This trait can cause those around you to believe that you also expect a perfect standard from others. The inability to live up to the impossible standards you set is exhausting, unhealthy, and can cause those you love to distance themselves from your toxicity.

The Bible addresses perfectionism by giving us Jesus, the only perfect human who ever lived without sin. He shows us that striving for perfection is pointless, as God is more concerned with our faith and the development of our character – with His help. 

We also see throughout the Bible followers of Christ who demonstrated their full surrender and reliance on God’s strength as they learned that their lives were only made complete in Him. 

bible verses about perfectionism

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What does it mean to be a perfectionist?

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, being a perfectionist means striving for incredibly high standards and being displeased with anything that is less than perfect. In terms of our faith, the definition is believing that a sinless life is attainable. 

On its own, a degree of perfectionism can be a healthy character quality that helps a person strive for the best in all they do. But when the best isn’t achieved, this can affect the perfectionist’s attitude and relationships with the people around them. Perfectionism creates a toxic environment for others to live in when the perfectionist expects the same behaviors or level of quality from others as well.

In the home, children of perfectionists have increased anxiety and depression because of the constant need to try to live up to standards that are not attainable. Family members often feel the need to “walk on eggshells” in fear of not meeting the perfectionist parent’s impossibly high standards.   

Bible Verses about perfectionism and being perfect

In Matthew 5:48, Jesus has just given his first recorded sermon, “The Sermon on the Mount,” to his followers. He commands them, 

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 5:48 ESV  

Taken out of context, we could assume that Jesus is commanding us to be perfect because God is perfect according to our definition of being without sin and making no mistakes. However, scripture in the New Testament was originally recorded in Greek. The word “perfect” in Matthew 5:48 comes from the Greek word “teleios,” which means “complete”. 

Jesus is telling his followers to strive for completeness in character, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually mature. The Amplified Bible translates the verse this way: 

“You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 5:48 AMP

What does it look like to strive for a complete character? Instead of only focusing on the last verse of Matthew 5, spend some time reading the 47 verses before it. Jesus tells us how to work toward perfection or completion of character:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:2-10 ESV

In order for us to be mature in our character, Jesus is telling us to be humble, grieve our sin, be self-controlled, and crave to be more like God. 

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Does God Expect Us to be Perfect?

Jesus is the only perfect, sinless human to have ever lived. He is not telling us to be perfect like he is, but he is telling us to strive to be mature with God’s help. God wants us to grow in our relationship with him so that he can help us mature in our faith. Achieving true perfection is impossible as none of us is without sin. God knows this. He doesn’t expect us to be sinless, but he wants us to work towards having the complete character of God. 

Genesis 1:27 says that we were made in the image of God. When Adam and Eve sinned, they were no longer the perfect image of God. Neither are we because of our sin. We can only achieve that completeness of character with God’s help, not in our own striving for perfection. 

Philippians 1:6 ESV says,

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

He will bring your life and character to completion. Your job is to surrender and be willing to let God lead and shape you for emotional, mental, and spiritual maturity.  

When Jesus came to earth, many of his confrontations were with the Pharisees. They believed that following the Mosaic Law (Ten Commandments plus 613 other commandments God gave to Israel) perfectly was the only way to eternal life. They were only concerned with the external practice of keeping the law, but God was more concerned about their inward character and having a closer relationship with Him.

In Luke 18:18-30 ESV, a young man in his twenties, likely part of the Jewish leadership (Sanhedrin), asked Jesus, Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He proceeds to tell Jesus that he has kept the commandments since he was a child. Jesus responds, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  

This made the young man very sad because, “he was extremely rich”. By asking the man to give away all he had, Jesus was testing his spiritual maturity.  Jesus knew the man lacked the character and spiritual maturity to strive to be more like God. The man thought he had achieved perfection by keeping the commandments and amassing wealth, but he lacked a “poor in spirit” character that Jesus preached about in the Sermon on the Mount.   

scriptures to pray

Before the Apostle Paul was blinded on the road to Damascus, he was a Pharisee named Saul who arrested and killed followers of Christ. He was a Jewish elite who studied under the best rabbi of that time. He pursued perfectionism to the point of persecuting anyone who appeared to speak or live against Jewish law.  

Throughout Paul’s letters in the New Testament, he writes about his past and how, with God’s help, he worked to overcome it.  In Philippians 3, Paul shares that he had every confidence in his flesh. This means that he believed he did all of the right things to be a perfect Jew. 

He followed the Mosaic Law:

“circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”

Philippians 3:5-6 ESV 

Paul thought he had achieved perfection, but learned that all of that didn’t matter if he didn’t have faith in Jesus Christ. 

Read Also: 11 Bible Verses about Comparison to help you Stop Comparing Yourself to Others 

Bible Verses to Lay Aside Perfectionism

Laying aside perfectionism comes from the place of understanding that what we strive for on our own is futile. Only in Christ can we be complete and mature in our faith. Paul continues in Philippians 4:13 ESV, 

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” 

God’s strength becomes our strength. Our strength runs out too quickly. Only relying on God’s strength can help us continue.

Paul even uses the word perfect in Philippians 3:12 ESV,

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

The word perfect is the same Greek word, “teleios”, that Jesus used in Matthew 5:48 ESV. Paul recognized that he had not become perfect or fully spiritually mature, but he kept moving forward towards that maturity. 

Paul encourages us to follow his example:

“For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith — that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” 

Philippians 3:8-10 ESV

Believers are chosen to be God’s children through grace, not through our striving for perfection: So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” Romans 11:5-6 ESV 

How do you overcome perfectionism?

Overcoming perfectionism starts with surrendering to the Lord. Surrendering perfectionism doesn’t always happen overnight. In Matthew 16:24 ESV, Jesus tells the disciples that in order to follow Him, “he must deny himself and take up his cross.” Daily, we have to lay our struggles at the feet of Jesus and pray: 

“God, I lay my perfectionism at your feet.  Develop my character to be more like you. Amen.”

God doesn’t expect perfection from us because he pours out his grace on us. Knowing this, we can have grace for ourselves to lay down our perfectionism. We can have grace for others and acknowledge when our standards are too high. With his mighty strength, God wants to guide you to spiritual, emotional, and mental maturity.

Written by: Leah Lively

Leah Lively was born and raised in Virginia. As a mom of four, she has waded through the waters of parenting a child with chronic physical and mental health issues. Leah is passionate about helping others focus on God while walking through the chaos of life. Leah writes to encourage others and grow in their faith. She writes to let other parents know they are not alone. She shares her writing on her blog and social media pages and has also published four Bible studies. In her spare time, Leah enjoys listening to podcasts, hanging out with her kids, settling down with a good book and a cup of coffee, or spending time with friends.

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