While the perfectionistic teen may look like the poster child for “The Kind of Teen Every Parent Wants,” he could be on the road to depression, anxiety disorders, or a host of physical problems. Perhaps even more worthy of parental concern, though, is the spiritual trauma that can come with this kind of seemingly innocuous tendency.
To add to the burdens of the perfectionist, when standards are not met, guilt often surfaces. For an already depressed or anxious person who is constantly pushing himself or herself, guilt can be an especially crushing weight. Of course, God intended for guilt to draw us to Him in repentance. But while false guilt can be just as heavy a burden, it brings no such release.
The conscience is a strange thing: While some people sear it to the point where it allows them to perform the most heinous acts without a twinge of guilt, others can feel guilty over acts as inconsequential as eating a single cookie or taking a day off to do nothing productive.
The only way to somewhat allay such feelings of guilt is to push harder, make up for it, do more, do better; the exhausting and draining cycle then continues with even greater intensity than before.
False guilt can be put in its place when a perfectionist purposes to remind himself of Truth and what God requires (and does not require). Since thoughts inform our emotions, it’s extremely important to constantly compare thoughts to God’s Word, holding them up side-by-side.
Behind the perfectionist’s overloaded to-do list and frustrated goals is something even more dangerous. While the first two may result in very real physical and emotional problems, this third area can be eternally devastating. The perfectionist is, at heart, a legalist. Perhaps the form of legalism is not tied to spiritual things, but it can easily creep into a person’s thinking about God.
The typical perfectionist has a difficult time accepting grace — freely given, undeserved. Even if she can recite (or even write out, punctuation-perfectly!) Bible verses and doctrinal facts, the concept of penance or doing certain things in certain ways in order to make up for wrongs and earn favor with God simply makes sense to her.
f she’s been exposed to teaching that even hints at such unbiblical concepts, her natural tendency will probably feed off those misguided ideas. She may over-analyze her own actions and thoughts to the point of wondering if she was really sincere even when she wasn’t intentionally being dubious. Assurance of salvation or even missing the basis of salvation can be a definite struggle. Of course, the ramifications of such confusion can be literally damning.
The plight of the perfectionist may not seem all that difficult if you’ve never struggled with the internal struggles that they face. They are very real, though, and very dangerous. As a parent, you need to realize that intervention may be needed even if the outward behaviors you see are exactly what you wish they would be.