worshipmatters.com
Exposing Perfectionism - Worship Matters
This semester I met with a group of interns on Friday afternoons (when I was around). Along with developing some musical skills we read selected chapters from Unceasing Worship by Harold Best. If you haven’t read it and you’re a Christian involved in congregational worship or the arts, I’d strongly encourage you to get a copy. At our last meeting someone referenced this quote from chapter 11: “Authentic worship is not perfect worship. It stands in continual need of examination, repentance, increased depth and humility as well as outpouring meekness and humility.” That led to an extended conversation on the topic of perfectionism. Most Christian musicians, worship leaders, and artists I know battle, have battled, or will battle perfectionism. A perfectionist can have different names. Overachiever. Compulsive. OCD. Whatever they’re called, they share common attributes. They tend to fix every flaw, exhaust every possible resource, edit and edit and edit again, occasionally get by on little or no sleep, over-rehearse, anticipate every problem or weakness that might arise, and rarely be satisfied with what they’ve done. Perfectionists can also be highly organized, extremely punctual, over-attentive to detail, and potentially irritating if you have to work with them. But perfectionists don’t always succeed. So they can beat themselves up when something doesn’t sound, look, or work out the way they planned. They procrastinate because they know what they’re doing won’t be as good as they’d like. They envy others who seem to have it all together. They can find it difficult to celebrate the successes of others, either because they think they could have done better or because they wish they had done as well. We can be frustrated perfectionists. While musicians don’t always view it as a problem, my guess is that secretly we think if you’re going to have a problem, perfectionism is a good one to have. It’s almost noble. We’re so committed to doing the best we can that we’ll practically harm ourselves to attain our goal. We’re not sluggards or slackards. We care about what we do and we just happen to have the problem of caring too much. Is that even a problem? Yes, perfectionism is a problem. More of a problem than we’d like to admit. Perfectionism is a delusion. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23) Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. (Eccles. 7:20) When someone says they’re a perfectionist I want to ask (and sometimes do), “When was the last time you did something perfect?” Last time I checked, there’s only One worthy of the name “perfect” and we’re not Him. No matter how much energy, thought, and time we put into an activity we’ll never actually do something perfect. To think we will is a delusion. At the very best “perfectionism” is a misnomer that implies a degree of pretense. That’s not to say we shouldn’t work hard at what we do. Paul said, “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). But when we describe working hard as “perfectionism,” it’s very possible we’re disguising the true nature of what’s going on in our hearts. Perfectionism is idolatrous. For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Rom. 11:36) So that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:31) Striving to do things thoroughly, on time, and with excellence are great goals. But in the heart of a “perfectionist,” other things are going on. We notice when others don’t keep the same standards. We can be irritated, even angry, when we have to work with musicians who slow us down or make us sound bad. We can’t remember the last time we were really peaceful, …