Excellence vs Perfectionism and the Cost of the Impossible


No one will argue that we must strive for excellence. After all who wouldn’t want a life, a business, a team, a ministry built on the best we can do and become. It’s the ultimate calling of a believer: to give our best to God no matter the task at hand. But those of us who are perfectionists, even the reluctant ones (and I will include myself in this group) will hide our true agenda of the pursuit of the never-attainable perfection behind the noble pursuit of excellence. This is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. Find a reason that no one can argue with…excellence…and hide underneath it a more nefarious motivation…the pursuit of the impossible.


But in my struggle with the perfect, I have learned that ultimately, perfectionism costs me not only a lot personally, but it can wreak havoc in the organizations I lead. After all…

It is demanding.

It is insatiable .

It is ungrateful.

It is selfish.

Perfectionism mocks excellence as an unfinished good. It shuts down new opportunities on the altar of incomplete business. It dismisses talent by its impossible standards. It destroys relationships by its unreasonable expectations.

Perhaps it’s time for some of us to lift the sheep skin and expose the monster underneath.

How has perfectionism, whether yours or someone else’s,  impacted your life?


  • Margaret

    I must confess that I too fall in the perfectionist trap. Nothing is ever just right. There’s always room for improvement in everything and I push myself to accomplish, as you put it, the impossible. And not the impossible as in something of great value, but the impossible in the small details and the inconsequent. 

    • I know that trap too well, Margaret. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story with us.

  • I used to be a die-hard perfectionist, and it kept me from doing anything I didn’t think I was perfect at. Now, I strive for excellence – doing the best with what I have and realizing there will always bee room for improvement. I learned that lesson with the resources we put out through Ignite. They are in no way perfect. There are other resources out there that are better. But we are doing the best we can and trying to improve our resources each year. They will never be perfect, but they will always be excellent.

  • On most personality tests I cash out as a “Precisionist” which is merely code for “Perfectionist.”  It took a lot of internal reflection for me to realize that perfect is truly the enemy of good enough and begin to act on that conviction.

  • David Estes

    This is a defining issue for so many of us who have battled the perfectionism rooted in insecurity and poor theology.  Thanks for putting such a fine point on it!

  • Stephen G

    If what I am doing is in alignment  with God’s call and leading, then I should desire to do my very best for Him.  But there is an insidious line that I cross where excellence and perfectionism split paths.  It’s the line where I stop trusting God with the outcome and start trusting myself.  I find way too often I’m working out of my own abilities, gifting, energy and strength rather than acknowledging that all of these are blessings from God and that while God can use me, His purposes can only be accomplished through His power.

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