No matter what they’re doing, most people I meet generally want to do their very best. They usually want to excel in their chosen field, and they’re willing to put in the hard work necessary for that to take place.
But there’s a line—a line that’s thin and blurry—that we can so easily cross. With just one false move, belief, or agreement, we step over the line that separates being excellent and being perfect.
It’s easy to believe that perfectionism is a good thing. Jesus even seems to command it in the Sermon on the Mount when He tells says to “be perfect” (Matthew 5:48), but is that really what Jesus is saying? Is He really telling His followers to be perfectionists?
My story is the story of someone who might not ever call himself a perfectionist, but who was living as one. I was so scared of letting people down—my family, the owners and coaches of my NFL teams, and the fans. And to be honest, that perfectionism carried over into my relationship with God.
I felt like if I didn’t achieve something that was perfect, then I was letting God down. And that’s a terrible place to live.
We know that perfectionism has very little lasting value, but it’s so difficult to honestly believe that, and to allow that belief to influence our actions.
“Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” —Colossians 2:20-23
In these verses Paul talks about how holding ourselves to a standard of perfection has the appearance of wisdom, but in the end only leads us down a path of further self-indulgence.
Football injuries were God’s way of leading me away from a life of perfectionism, and into a life of grace. But those injuries weren’t the only thing that helped me experience God’s grace.
A few years ago, I had a life-changing conversation with a very important person in my life. I tell that story at TheIncrease.com.
So at the end of the day, we need to be excellent in everything we do. But when things don’t go as we’ve planned, we must take comfort in the fact that God is still acting in our lives, and that His posture toward us is still one that is loving and inviting. We are people who have been given the righteousness of Jesus, and that’s a gift that we could never earn on our own. He already loves us that much!
And I’m learning to rest in that.
—Benjamin Watson, Baltimore Ravens Tight End