Few things can short-circuit your effort to live fully alive as much as the fear of failure. This fear will affect your ability to get in shape physically, it will keep you from trying new things, stop you from taking risks, impede living out your faith and keep you from enjoying life. Fear will also negatively influence every relationship you have.
All this fear leads to a disease called “perfectionism.”
Perfectionists are miserable human beings. I ought to know. I’m a recovering perfectionist, “one who fears failure.” That doesn’t mean I was ever perfect, it means I spent much of my time feeling like a failure because nothing I did was perfect. Rarely did I finish a project. I painted pictures no one ever saw, I wrote letters I never sent, and I planned trips I never took. If I couldn’t do it to perfection, I gave up. And I certainly wasn’t willing to make any imperfect projects public.
In my mind, imperfection was failure.
In reality, imperfection and failure are a part of life.
K. Chesterton said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” Chesterton wasn’t encouraging mediocrity, he was alerting his audience to an important truth: If you wait to do something until you have it perfect, you will never do it.
Give it your best shot now. Learn from your mistakes and then do it better the next time. That’s called growth. If I still operated as a perfectionist you would never see “Fully Alive” the book I have just finished. Someone would find me slumped over the computer thirty years from now, unwilling to release the manuscript because it wasn’t perfect yet. But, I gave the book my very best. It is not perfect but it will change lives.
My pastor hit the nail on the head last Sunday when he said, “If you are looking for a church with perfect people you will never find one. And if you do find one don’t join it. You’ll ruin it!” The same can be said for every office, every family, every organization on earth.
As we mature, the default is to pull further away from living fully alive. That’s a huge mistake. Run full speed ahead until the day your chest breaks the tape at the end of this race. As a follower of Christ, I believe that is the day that he will make me perfect. Until then, I will keep learning from my mistakes and moving forward.
Perfection is a goal to pursue, not a requirement for living.
So paint, sing, write, dance, love, and keep living! God isn’t done with you yet.
Any other perfectionists out there? I would love to hear from you.
This is great Ken. Right on. Being willing to make an attempt that will not be perfect but going ahead anyway sounds like living Fully Alive!
Thank for your comment Mark
Well! You had me pegged! I have over 15 novels in the making and an art studio I have been planning to go into to set up but have never done so. Seeing your words so clearly written reminds me that not to live fully alive, is not fully living the life God created. Thanks Ken! Looking so forward to seeing your show in Syracuse next weekend! I’m celebrating my birthday with my sister and she gifted me tickets to your show. What a great gift, especially since I am hoping you will have Fully Alive there for purchase. See you on the 9th
Hope you enjoyed Syracuse.
I couldn’t help but get a great big smile on my face when I read this. My father was quite the perfectionist. I can remember him getting so upset about things in the church not being “perfect”. He also believe the only bible to use was the King James Version. All other versions were not authentic. Little did my father realize that the King James Version was a translation and it wasn’t perfect either. Mom used to tell him that if he wanted a perfect church he needed to start his own and the bad news was that he would be the only member and he wasn’t perfect either so there would not be a perfect church.
So glad this made you smile.
I guess this would be a bad time to point out all the typos in the post? 😉
So VERY true Ken. Fear of the past and fear of the future really do keep us from living in the moment – being present, which in reality is the only place we can live. Thank you for the reminder!
English major who blogs will have typos! The option is to never blog. It is interesting that one of the reasons I have blogged infrequently in the past, is because of a fear that there might be a grammatical error or misspelling or typo I wouldn’t catch. Now I give them the thrice over and pull the trigger.
Enjoy the typo’s they will be there for a long time. (-;
perfectly said 🙂 Thank you for sharing! made me laugh when you said “You’ll ruin it” lol…so true…bless you 🙂
Ken, I so appreciate your ministry! What a great article…and “perfectly” what I needed to hear. I have been a perfectionist all my life; not because I am perfect but because I thought I was SUPPOSED to be, always trying to please others, always trying to attain to the perfection I felt THEY wanted from me, yes even after becoming a Christian. 🙁 After four years of typing, typing, typing, editing, editing, editing because I wanted it to be “perfect”, I have finished “The Old Coot Who Lives in a Room” (stories about my life’s humorous happenings). NOW, thanks to you!, with a clear conscience I can begin attempts for its publication. Bless you!
Go for it Girl!
OUCH! You nailed me Ken. I struggle terribly with fear and perfectionism. I’ve often said that I’ve failed so many times, that I’m afraid to make ANY decissions now, which of course IS a decission. It’s cyclical. I can’t do it on my own, but I’m trying with God’s help to get out of it. Please keep me in your prayers.
I actually nailed myself! Thank you for your comment.
Ken this is so true! My perfectionism was broken with a “public failure” (a failed church plant). Grateful God continues to shape me to become more like Him. Still learning . . .
So true! Still learning until we see His face.
Beth Moore has commented that perfectionism is insecurity raised to an art form. That’s certainly been true in my life. It takes a certain degree of God-confidence to be willing to try even if it means a less-than-perfect effort. Excellence is a worthy goal; perfectionism, an impossible one.
Well said. thank you for your comment
Ken – Thank you so much for this. I struggle with fear in a big way. So much so that I’ve been telling myself (out loud in my car that is), fear is not my friend!!! It paralizes me regularly. But…I don’t want to stay there. Its cost me precious moments…
Keep saying it out loud. Even more emphatically remind yourself that God has not given you a spirit of fear! Grab those moments. The worst that can happen isn’t even close to missing the moments all together.
For once something I can’t relate to, being a perfectionist that is. I like to believe that when God mader me he cracked the mold just a little to soon. after meeting me I’m thinking you might agree with that last statement. I have always, save a few stretches of depression due to pain and other medical mysteries, been to busy trying to have fun. I didn’t have time as a youth, growing up in the boonies of Minnesota, to even attempt to be a perfectionist. If I had been a perfectionist I would never have had a chance to find out first hand the reason you should never cremate a dead skunk. As for now I’m having way too much fun to even think of doing anything right. God has told me to let him worry about my imperfections and just go out and show others of his love and that it’s ok to laugh at ourselves when we fall.
Thanks also for cheering up all my friends with your lighten up entitled are you bitter or better. I loved it too.
Thanks Ken, I need to remind myself all the time about my perfection problem. Your blog hits the nail right on the head(my head). I appreciate your writing. God bless.
Thank you! I love having you as a part of the conversation.
Fortunately, I’m not a perfectionist. Since no one IS perfect, the pursuit of something that is unattainable must be totally demoralising.
Instead, why not “pursue excellence”? As our resources increase, so does the standard of excellence to aim for.
Ultimately, whatever we pursue, is as you know, matter of the heart
As an inventor it’s impossible to be a perfectionist because failure it’s just part of the job. If you’re not failing, you’re not succeeding.
You’re right that there aren’t any perfect people. If you believe that there are, you’ll be disappointed.
would love to know how many tries it can take to get an invention right.
As I sit here in front of this monitor crying, I thank you.
You struck my heart with the mighty hammer of truth. Don’t feel too free at this moment but sure this realization has loosened the bonds a bit.
I am older and should have reasoned this before but I guess all in God’s good time.
I have prayed, begged, and bargained with God for a break through. Bingo…….
I am living in a mess because I am waiting for the perfect house, life, situation, time, novel, etc. How much I have wasted in my pursuit of perfection. How pitiful is that. O.K. not perfect but willing to get back in the game. FULLY. Thank you again.
I am so glad this post touched your heart. To release perfectionism is to experience freedom.
I’m 18 and perfection is all I live for. I try to be “super Christian” and it never works. But then God blesses me in the most unexpected of ways and it leaves me going “Wait wait wait! I didn’t earn that!”
Well duh. That was the point.
Aint nobodyz perfect. I’m a PK. I oughta know.