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Is Perfectionism a Sin? - Regnum Christi

Regnum Christi

Is Perfectionism a Sin?


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Being a perfectionist has its advantages, some of which might even be considered virtues. We perfectionists are patient enough to tend to a task until we’ve got things just right, diligent in our duty to, as Christ, “do all things well,” and persevering until everything is perfect. Surely this tendency to strive for perfection must be a godly one, since it is Jesus Himself who calls us to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Perfectionism must be okay, because Jesus said so. Right?

The need for everything (and everyone, especially ourselves) to be perfect is, in fact, a slippery slope into sin, suggests St. Francis de Sales, and he provides two sins in particular to be on the lookout for if perfectionism is your natural inclination.

The Sin of Anger

“It is the sin of anger when we are overly critical, and berate ourselves for our mistakes,” warns St. Francis. We perfectionists are frightened by failure, and can be exceptionally cruel to ourselves when we witness or even suspect it in ourselves. We might not mentally rebuke ourselves as dramatically as St. Francis’ examples of critical self-talk (“Die with shame, you blind, impudent traitor!”), but we can be overly harsh in our self-criticism nonetheless.

The Sin of Pride

“It is the sin of pride that we let our own imperfections bother us so much,” continues St. Francis, and both anger and this excessive frustration towards ourselves flow “from no other source than self-love, which is troubled and disquieted to see itself imperfect.” It is prideful self-love that causes us to focus on our failures, which mar the perfect image we seek for ourselves.

Have no fear, though. Fortunately, we perfectionists are not doomed to wallow forever in our anger and pride, and St. Francis de Sales, in his infinite wisdom, provides us with the opposing virtue upon which to hang our hope: meekness towards ourselves.

The Virtue of Meekness

The virtue of meekness allows us to be calm instead of angry, gentle and self-possessed when we’d rather rant and rage. The virtue of meekness towards myself lets me correct myself calmly, instead of harshly. Compassion over passion, and sweetness instead of a storm, is the attitude St. Francis suggests we take when we self-critique: “we must be displeased with our faults, but in a peaceable, settled, and firm manner,” “never fretting at our own imperfections.”

The ever-helpful St. Francis even gives us a sweet and compassionate prayer to replace the negative self-talk towards which we might be tempted in the face of failure and our own imperfection:

Alas, my poor heart,
here we are,
fallen into the pit we had so firmly resolved to avoid!
Well, let us rise again, and quit it forever;
let us call upon the mercy of God,
and hope it will assist us to be more constant in the days to come,
and let us enter again the path of humility.
Let us be encouraged,
and let us from this day be more upon our guard;
God will help us,
we will do better!”

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Alex Kucera

Atlanta

Alex Kucera has lived in Atlanta, GA, for the last 46 years. He is one of 9 children, married to his wife Karmen, and has 3 girls, one grandson, and a granddaughter on the way. Alex joined Regnum Christi in 2007. Out of the gate, he joined the Helping Hands Medical Missions apostolate and is still participating today with the Ghana Friendship Mission.

In 2009, Alex was asked to be the Atlanta RC Renewal Coordinator for the Atlanta Locality to help the RC members with the RC renewal process. Alex became a Group Leader in 2012 for four of the Atlanta Men’s Section Teams and continues today. Running in parallel, in 2013, Alex became a Team Leader and shepherded a large team of good men.

Alex was honored to be the Atlanta Mission Coordinator between 2010 to 2022 (12 years), coordinating 5-8 Holy Week Mission teams across Georgia. He also created and coordinated missions at a parish in Athens, GA, for 9 years. Alex continues to coordinate Holy Week Missions, Advent Missions, and Monthly missions at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Cumming, GA.

From 2016 to 2022, Alex also served as the Men’s Section Assistant in Atlanta. He loved working with the Men’s Section Director, the Legionaries, Consecrated, and Women’s Section leadership teams.

Alex is exceptionally grateful to the Legionaries, Consecrated, and many RC members who he’s journeyed shoulder to shoulder, growing his relationship with Christ and others along the way. He knows that there is only one way, that’s Christ’s Way, with others!