Craig Groeschel identifies 'spiritual problem' behind 'sinful' pursuit of perfection

craig groeschel
Life.Church Senior Pastor Craig Groeschel preaches in April 2018. |

In a society that idolizes success, Life.Church Senior Pastor Craig Groeschel shared how to overcome the pursuit of perfection and instead choose “a perfect love over performance.”

In a recent sermon, Groeschel said that mothers in particular feel pressure to achieve perfection: “All you have to do, moms, is have a Pinterest-worthy home, Instagram-worthy looks, take your kids to the zoo, do crafts, throw elaborately-themed birthday parties with ponies and princesses, have a successful career, keep up with a hobby, post on Facebook.”

But dealing with the pursuit of perfection isn’t just a mom problem; it’s an everyone problem, Groeschel said. He identified three different types of perfectionists: the self-oriented perfectionist, the externally-oriented perfectionist, and the others-oriented perfectionist.

“A lot of times, we see perfectionism as a psychological issue, and it is," he said. "But I believe at its root it’s a very real spiritual problem because perfectionism is very often a covering for our deepest insecurities and fears. It’s a covering for our sinfulness. It’s creating the illusion of an external standard that, if I live up to this, I’ll be good enough for somebody.

“So what do we do? If at its root it’s a spiritual problem, then at its root we need to let God solve this problem.”

Groeschel pointed to Romans 3:20, which reads, “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.”

“On our own, in our own fleshly sinfulness, we can never obtain all the standards of the law,” he explained. “The law reveals the reality that we need help, we need grace, we need mercy. We’re never going to be good enough.”

"The problem is today if we try to talk at this level in our culture, people try to say, ‘Don’t call me a bad person … don't judge me.’ Actually, this isn’t judging, this is just telling the truth. You’re a jacked-up, screwed-up, bad, evil sinner and so am I ... Scripture says your heart is deceitful above all things ... we have all fallen short of God’s standard. We do not have the capacity to live up to God’s standards.

“The reality is until you see yourself as a sinner, you won’t see your need for a Savior — and that’s why the law is so beautiful. It shows us, ‘I need help, I can’t be perfect, I can’t live up to that.'"

We’re made right with God, Groeschel said, by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. “What is perfectionism? Perfectionism focuses on what I do ... but grace focuses on what Jesus has already done,” he said. “It’s His righteousness, His goodness, His perfect work. Perfection is all about me; grace is all about Jesus, the sinless Son of God who did the work God sent Him to do.”

“Because of Jesus, the pressure is off. Be free, walk in it,” he added.

When people truly understand grace, it changes the way they relate to themselves and others, Groeschel contended.

“We get to choose people over perfection,” he said. “We get to choose relationship and depth of connection instead of performance and perfectionism in front of people.”

“Because the pressure is off, we can choose perfect love over perfect performance,” Groeschel said. “We can choose the perfect love of our Father rather than performing to impress Him or someone else.”

Perfectionism is often a covering for shame, guilt, inadequacy, or a feeling of rejection, the pastor explained: “It’s a covering, and its a bad covering.”

“Intimidating” Scripture verses like Matthew 5:48 — “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” — are not about performance, Groeschel emphasized, but about love.

“It’s not about our behavior it’s about our response to God’s love in loving others," he said. "He’s talking about being perfected in love ... it means to be mature, it means to be made complete.”

“Love everybody. Love Freely. Love as you’ve been loved. Reflect the love of God in the way you love others, be perfected in how you love, be mature and complete in your love. It’s not that you have to be perfect in performance, but it’s growing into the perfect love of God."

Our role isn’t to convince people how good we are; our calling is convince people how good God is, the pastor said. “It’s not about our performance, it’s all about Jesus.”

“Jesus takes the pressure off so we don’t have to perform for approval,” he concluded. “But because we’re already approved because of what Jesus did, now we get to respond.”

Previously, evangelical speaker and author Priscilla Shirer explained that social media has heightened the need for perfection and exacerbated feelings of inadequacy in young people and women, in particular.

“Especially as women, we are constantly inundated with images that are telling us we are insufficient the way we are, that we have to adapt ourselves in some way to be beautiful and to be considered worthy," she told The Christian Post. "If you are looking at Instagram and magazine covers all day long, it’s going to cement those feelings that are incongruent with who you are as a daughter of Christ."

The antidote, she explained, is to rehearse positive feelings. “That's why God says in the Scriptures, ‘Meditate on my Word,’” she said. “It's not just so you can have it memorized; it's so that your mind will be changed and you'll start living out of a place that is congruent with your identity in Christ instead of the erroneous identity that we've been cementing, through either words that we've said to ourselves or words that are being spoken to us from other people.”

Shirer also recommended placing boundaries around social media use, noting it “can start to reshape our lives in a way that’s incongruent with the truth of who God has called us to be.”

“That’s with anything, but we’re seeing that happen in a crazy way with social media, not just with young people, but with adults, too,” she said. “We can't even go to dinner without our phones in our hand, without checking it. Every buzz, every bing, causes a thrust of adrenaline to bolster through our body. And so we're being drawn into this relationship with social media and with technology that's consuming our lives.”

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