A spotlight on our hearts

Winston Hottman on perfectionism and marriage:

Perfectionism doesn’t seem like a big deal to most people, and even we as Christians tend to look at perfectionism as a “respectable” sin. The simple truth is that perfectionism, like all other sin, is a blatant form of human pride…

As a Christian, my brand of perfectionism can be a little more subtle because it sometimes disguises itself in pious clothing. But even when perfectionism seems to be aimed at godly living, it is prideful because it expects from ourselves now what only God has promised to accomplish in the future. Perfectionism disregards God’s promise to make us who we ought to be by attempting in our own strength to meet the goal of that promise in the present, and by positioning ourselves as the final judges of our performance…. Depending on how well we do in our own eyes, perfectionism can play out in a variety of negative responses: feelings of worthlessness, inordinate preoccupation with the opinions of other people, paralyzing fear, impatience with others, and a sense of superiority.

The opposite is also true: sometimes we are so paralysed by fear of failure that we choose to take a back seat and not even try.

I don’t think ‘striving for perfection and settling for excellence’ necessarily indicates a lack of trust in God or an over-inflated sense of self. Trust in God to deliver on what he has promised to happen in the future doesn’t necessarily need to mean that we shouldn’t work – and pray – with all our strength to see that future begin now. It does mean, though, that we should be continually examining ourselves – our heart and our motives – to ensure that our striving is properly framed as worshipful striving and not pride dressed up in pious clothing.

No matter how good our marriages are, as the most intimate relationship two human beings can share, marriage functions like a spotlight on our hearts by enabling us to see our selfishness from the up-close perspective of another person. It exposes us. And, consequently, it has a way of demolishing the pretensions of our self-confidence… God is using my marriage to destroy my pride.

Close relationships – marriage in particular – is a great antidote to self-absorption. Those closest to us are often prepared to say it how it is, and to bring us back down to earth when pride has puffed up our sense of self-importance or self-reliance.

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