The Perfect and the Good
I heard this profound maxim the other day: “Don’t make the perfect an enemy of the good.” I had to look up what it meant, since I had not heard it before. It addresses the pitfalls of perfectionism. Let’s define perfectionism as the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.
Perfectionism can be a godly tendency, for our Lord tells us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). But with everything good, true, and beautiful, mankind distorts this teaching due to sin. In view of this, perfectionism can become a weapon that our own psyche wields against us. Take, for example, the process of sanctification. Some Christians set very high expectations in following Christ. When those standards are not kept, they are crushed into despair, thinking that God does not love them and that they need to earn God’s favor. Such perfectionism produces “death,” not “godly grief” (2 Cor 7:10). This is not the way of Christ. Perfection has become the enemy of good.
Even on our best days, we fall short (Rom 3:23). In this life, sanctification is partial. There’s no such thing as the “perfect church.” Church will always be a mixture of both good and bad. Marriages will never be perfect. Your children will disappoint you. Does this mean that we should not seek sanctification, not be involved in church, remain single, and not have children? Absolutely not! Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good. Aim for perfection, yes, but not to the exclusion of accepting and celebrating the good.