Amy Baker has written a book about perfectionism, and in it she reveals the true nature of perfectionism: pride, self-righteousness, judgementalism, and idolatry. Perfectionists often try to cast their tendency in positive terms by asking, "Shouldn't I want to do my best?", but Baker stresses that underneath this seemingly noble motivation is an attitude that denies the sufficiency of Christ and puts in its place a standard far different (and ultimately, far less demanding!) than his.
Broadly, Picture Perfect deals first with different types of perfectionism, second with Christ's perfection, and third with how to combat perfectionism's pernicious paralysis and pitfalls. In the first section she looks at performance-based perfectionism, perfectionism that demands more of another, perfectionism that demands more of oneself, the defeated perfectionist, and the "I'm living only for Jesus!" perfectionist. Baker shows how all of these are attempts at self-salvation that end only in misery, broken relationships, failure, and idolatry.
Instead of trying to save ourselves by adhering to our own standard of perfection, we ought to surrender to Christ's much higher standard—as the God-Man, he tells us to be holy as he is holy, surely an unattainable goal! And yet we submit through faith, trusting that he has fulfilled the perfection God demands, that he imparts it to us, and that he then equips us to strive for his perfection without breaking us physically or spiritually.
Lastly, Baker looks at the fear that keeps us in idolatrous service to perfectionism, the false front we use to convince others that we are perfect, ways to attune ourselves to accepting criticism, etc. She includes a chapter using Moses, the most humble man, as a test case for abandoning our sinful perfectionism, as well as chapters on guilt, false guilt, and the importance of rest for maintaining physical and spiritual health.
Like all good books about sin issues, Baker focuses her attention on the sinful heart from which the desire for and attempt to attain perfection stems. The control of others, the dissatisfaction and lack of joy, the ultimate emptiness and shame associated with failing to live up to one's own standards are all just byproducts of the root issue of a sinful heart that would rather trust for salvation in the individual's own efforts than in the efforts of Christ already accomplished. Baker exposes this idolatry with grace and concern, while supplying biblical answers that alone can free us from the chains of perfectionism. Highly recommended for perfectionists and those who love them!
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
Did you find this review helpful?