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Courageous Disciples, Week 3, Day 2

It Takes Courage Week 3 Transforming Mission

Armored Discipleship: Perfectionism

Daring Discipleship: Healthy Striving, Empathy and Self-Compassion


Matthew 5:43-48

Following Jesus most days may seem like you’re living in an upside down world. Living as a courageous disciple is not for the faint of heart, is it?

Read Matthew 5 and tell me you’re not making excuses for why it’s not possible to do what Jesus is asking of you. C’mon I dare you.

Ok, I’ll go first. I can easily make excuses for why it is not possible to do what Jesus is asking in this passage.

The excuses roll through my head like a quick moving spring thunderstorm. (Read the following statements with sarcasm and disdain for greater impact.)

What do you mean, “Love my enemies?” Jesus, don’t you know “those people” are the ones we talk about, not love. My friends post nasty things about “them” on social media, why shouldn’t I? My friends talk about “them” behind their back. Why wouldn’t I do the same? I have to keep my place. “Yeah, I know better. But how am I supposed to survive in this world?”

I am grateful the above example is filled with creativity and not my daily reality. But I hear it all the time. If I’m honest, at times, I slip into this stinking thinking.

Look in the mirror, dear one. Those thoughts might NOT be exactly your thoughts, but you’ve likely been there. Remember, confession is good for the soul. Following Jesus is not for the timid.

Now jump to the very last verse for today.

“Be perfect.”

Let’s not confuse perfectionism with the phrase, “being perfect” that Jesus talks about in this passage. Perfection in scripture is the command to complete obedience and holiness. That’s about being a courageous disciple, not an armored disciple. If we’re following Jesus every day, seeking to become more like Jesus, that’s healthy striving, not perfectionism.

Additionally, Christian perfection as John Wesley talked about it is about being made perfect in love. Again, it’s healthy striving.

“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of blame, judgment, and shame.” Brené Brown, Dare to Lead, p. 80

Before you disintegrate into a full shame storm, let me remind you you’re not alone. If you’ve ever had the following thoughts, you’re not alone. Perfectionism is armor that many people struggle with carrying around, thinking it is helping, but it is actually hurting your ability to be a courageous disciple. Consider this:

“The neighbors must think I’m a loser. The lasagna is runny, the garlic bread burned, the salad dressing was rancid.” And you want me to be perfect, Jesus? I’m not measuring up.

Dear one, put down the armor.

“The team will tell me the presentation can be better. It’s not 110%. I’m going to keep working because I don’t want them to think I’m not capable of doing great work.”

Dear one, put down the armor.

“The house isn’t clean enough for my parents to visit. Your spouse responds, “Honey, we just cleaned yesterday.”

Dear one, put down the armor.

“People think I’m a horrible parent because my child isn’t behaving (….like a grown adult with manners, tact, and grace.)

Dear one, put down the armor.

Newsflash: there’s a reason he or she is behaving like a child. They are a child.

Do you see what armor does? Armor says, “I’m not perfect.” “I’m not good enough.” “I’m afraid to fail.” Jesus says, “You are my beloved.”

Perfectionism is all around us. But here’s the good news: Jesus does not expect us to perfect to be in relationship with him. He only expects that our heart is open to love. Healthy striving is about being clear with the people around you about the places you’re susceptible to perfectionism and working together to be clear.

Healthy striving is about asking the a question that focuses on growth and development: “How can I improve?” Its focused on your desire to grown. Perfectionism on the other hand, is focused on others, and seeking the approval of others. “What will people think?” I don’t know of a single example where Jesus says, “worry about what other people say.” Instead, Jesus dares us to lead with love.


Where does perfectionism show up for you? How does it show up? How do you distinguish between healthy striving and perfectionism?


Pay attention today to your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and where perfectionism shows up. Seek to shift your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors one step closer to healthy striving. And remember: You are special. You are blessed. You can be who God created you to be…and Jesus isn’t asking you to carry around the armor of perfectionism.


Lord Jesus, thank you for loving me as I am and helping me to see how I can grow and become more like you. Thank you for the reminder that I am special, blessed, and I am on a journey with you. Guide me today to be mindful of the places I’m seeking the approval of others instead of you, even as i offer myself to you, Jesus, Amen.


Use a notebook to record your responses. Share your celebrations in the comments below.

Check-in with a trusted friend or your spouse about how you did today putting down your armor.

Extra Thoughts

If you haven’t taken a moment to review the “Overview of It Takes Courage” please do so. You’ll find a few tips that will help you start this journey.

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