What does it mean to be a perfectionist? The definition in a medical dictionary says a perfectionist is, "A person who pursues an impossibly high standard of performance and, in many cases, demands the same standards of others."
Many people who are actually perfectionists are considered to be very reliable and thorough, and great planners because they are meticulous and pay great attention to detail. Frequently people who are perfectionists are held up as role models for others.
There is nothing wrong with any of those things, we are always to strive to do our best. The problem comes when our perfectionistic goals become the god, and our striving to be perfect is for all the wrong reasons. When the goals are unrealistic and unattainable, the perfectionist comes apart because they do not know how to handle the "failure" of not being perfect.
Some perfectionists began this behavior pattern because of a misunderstanding of Matt. 5:48, "Be holy as I am holy." They began with a desire to please God, but somehow this desire has become law in their lives. They are frequently legalistic and absolute in their thinking. All or nothing thinking is common and there is truly a belief that they can never "please" God.
Perfectionists tend to view people as projects and their relationships are shallow and performance based. The people in the life of the perfectionist learn that as long as they perform to the standards that have been set for them things will be fine. However, the standards are on a sliding scale and it is rare to be able to meet the acceptable level of performance of the perfectionist. This is because they hold themselves to the same difficult level of performance. When they discover they cannot attain it either, then they tend to wallow in guilt and self-hatred. The desire to be perfect is so strong that they are constantly reviewing everything they say and do be sure it is the best it can be. When they realize they are fallible human beings they get very upset with themselves and are frequently unhappy people.
Perfectionists are work-a-holics. The idea of leisure is foreign to them because it is not productive and it produces guilt for whatever leisure time they take means lost opportunity for them to do something.
Some perfectionists are diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and put on psychotropic medications. They will have angry outbursts because they fail at being perfect, they will face crushing depression because of their failures.
It is very important to understand that perfectionism is not in the Bible.