• Dana L. Butler

Core Motives: Excellence or Perfectionism?

As moms, “doing” seems to be our full time job, doesn’t it?  We cook for our families, feed our little ones, clean up messes, run errands, do laundry, clean up MORE messes, teach our children, discipline, clean up still MORE messes, mediate an argument, give baths, discipline some more, instruct little hearts, clean up again, read bedtime stories, pray for our kids, tuck them in.  And then we clean up again.  Go to sleep.  Wake up.  Repeat.

A year or so ago, a dear friend called me one day and spoke something into my heart that has changed my heart and perspective in all of these tasks that are continually before me.

The illustration was this: Me, wearing 2 different shoes.  One was labeled “perfectionism,” and the other, “excellence.”  He said he felt that the Lord wanted to remove my “perfectionism” shoe and replace it with another “excellence” shoe.

My friend shared with me these essential truths:  that perfectionism is motivated by fear… whereas excellence is motivated by love.

Isn’t it interesting how similar these 2 shoes can look at first glance? But from God’s perspective, they are as different as night and day. Perfectionism is our attempt to earn favor: other people’s, or God’s.  Excellence is operating out of a sureness that we already HAVE God’s favor…and that’s all that matters.  

And the RIGHT-NOW-ness of this truth FOR ME crashed in on my heart in that moment.  I knew the Lord and I were about to embark on a journey.

Ever since my friend’s phone call that day, God and I have been in process together, Him often revealing to me areas of my heart where I’ve been operating (“doing”) out of perfectionism instead of excellence. What I Know Now… In all of our “doing,” what matters to the Father so much more than all our accomplishments… is the condition of our hearts before Him in the midst of our doing.  Are we motivated by love?  Or by fear?

Here are some symptoms that clue me in to places in my heart where my motive in doing has been perfectionism/performance/striving:

  1. I’m motivated by a subtle (or not so subtle?) fear.  Fear of failure, of not meeting people’s expectations, of disappointing myself…fear of disappointing God.  Fear of people’s opinions of all my running around and doing.

  2. I compare myself to other moms, rating myself as either inferior or superior in my performance.

  3. Feverishly working to achieve goals; being afraid to slow down and rest.

  4. OR… Being almost paralyzed by fear of failure, so much so that I almost can’t get up and get ANYthing done.

  5. Possibly swinging back and forth between the 2 previous extremes… maybe even several times per day.

  6. I’m easily stressed out if I don’t accomplish all that I had set out to do on a particular day… I don’t trust God with what I’m unable to get done and let it go.

  7. After finishing a project or a conversation, I hash and re-hash what I could have or should have done or said differently… I have a hard time leaving the results to the Lord.

  8. I sometimes frantically grasp for control of my environment… Everything must be perfectly in order.  If it’s not, it speaks negatively of me.

These are the warning signs.

And when the Father highlights one of these symptoms in my heart, instead of seeing it and allowing my thinking to move toward condemning myself for my failure, God asks me to see it as a gentle invitation from Him to once again allow Him to remove my “perfectionism shoe” and allow excellence to become my core motivation in yet another arena of my heart. “Child,” He says, “I long for your obedience and all of your “doing” to flow out of a confidence and a rest in Your heart, a deep knowledge that your status of ‘beloved one’ is not dependent upon what you do… or don’t do.” And I want to live before Him as a daughter, confident in her Father’s affections… so much so that the opinions of anyone else (including myself!) pale in comparison… don’t you?

Here are some signs that I’m operating out of Love-empowered excellence:


  1. I’m relaxed as I go about completing the tasks before me.  I’m not stressed if I’m unable to accomplish everything on my to-do list for a particular day.

  2. I am secure.  I don’t need to perform perfectly in order to prove my worth.  My value has already been determined by Jesus’ sacrifice for me…His blood that “speaks a better word” over me. To the Father, I am worth the blood of His Son…and nothing I can do (or fail at doing) can increase or decrease my value to Him.

  3. My identity is in the Father, His heart toward me, and who He says I am….and NOT in how clean my house is, how obedient my son is, or how much I can “git ‘er done.”

  4. I can give genuine effort to a project or conversation (or blog post!) out of a place of resting in the Lord, do my best while abiding in Him, trust Him with the results, and then let it go.

  5. I am motivated and encouraged and empowered by my Father’s “well done!” as He whispers it to my heart throughout my days… as opposed to being motivated by the desire to earn God’s favor, or to impress people… or the fear of how their opinions of me might change if I fail to perform.

God… more and more, let me be found with 2 “excellence” shoes on my feet.  Would you let perfectionism and all my striving to perform in my own strength fall off of me as I am more and more deeply rooted and grounded in Your love…Your perfect love that casts out fear?  I choose right now to rest in Your commitment to completing this work that you’ve begun in my heart.  You will finish what You’ve started.  Come and have Your way in me, Father.  I trust You….

Be blessed today, friends… and could I encourage you to courageously allow Him to examine your heart today, to begin to remove your “perfectionism shoe” and replace it with excellence that flows out of your identity in Him?  He is so committed to the fully-alive-ness (if that’s a word) of your heart…

…And you are so loved,




PS – Linking up over here this morning, at SarahMae.com. Join me if you have a sec?

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