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Perfecting Ourselves to Death Paperback – 23 Mar 2005

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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Help for those trapped in perfectionism. 1 Dec. 2006
By Erik Olson - Published on
Format: Paperback
I've always had an overactive conscience, and I like to be in control. So perfectionism comes naturally to me. Any failure, real or perceived, brings on anxiety and recrimination. However, I've grown tired of trying to live up to my own impossible ideals and the inflated expectations of others. This year, a number of trials showed me the futility of perfectionism. I'll never be able to truly control myself, my circumstances, or anyone else. Indeed, there's a big difference between who I'd like to be, and who I really am (see Romans 7). So I was ripe for the encouraging instruction of "Perfecting Ourselves to Death."

Richard Winter has crafted a comprehensive, Biblically-based book on the topic of perfectionism. At its core, perfectionism is a desire for control and a means to eliminate uncertainty - in other words, if I do A, then I'll get B and avoid C. The author describes various examples of perfectionist thought patterns and behaviors, such as legalism, obsessive-compulsive thinking, and so on. From there, he goes over consequences like anxiety, eating disorders, and relational problems. Finally, Mr. Winter outlines a grace-based path that involves letting go of the perfectionist desire for control and certainty. Each chapter ends with discussion questions to assist in grasping its main idea.

Some Christians fear that letting go of perfectionism will lead to moral chaos and a slacker mentality. The "Perfectionist's Prayer" on pages 127-128 perfectly illustrates this mindset. Is it possible to do well and avoid sin without a perfectionist bent? Mr. Winter suggests that we can. The journey towards maturity and excellence begins with the admission that perfection is impossible. From there, growth occurs through a resolution to live with imperfection, plus a cognitive, prayerful alteration of perfectionist thought patterns. Of course, the grace of God is the grease that makes the wheels of change turn.

Depending on your type and level of perfectionist leanings, certain parts of this book will hit harder than others. In my case, I was most impacted by the perfectionist symptom of "keeping my options open" by refusing to make risky decisions. For example, I've tended to stay in failing dating relationships because I was afraid of rejecting her. What if I blow off the "right one," and miss out? However, in the end I was the one who got rejected. So I was left frustrated at myself for staying in a bad situation because of fear. Now, I strive to make these kinds of difficult judgment calls, even if I close off a potential path. Of course, this idea holds true if and when the time comes to commit to a good woman. Commitment is a risk, and part of that risk entails forsaking other options (as the book and movie "High Fidelity" so aptly demonstrated).

"Perfecting Ourselves to Death" is a helpful book for the frustrated perfectionist who is looking to change. Similar books you might want to check out are, "Tired of Trying to Measure Up" by Jeff VanVonderen and "The Myth of Certainty" by Daniel Taylor.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
The Losing Battle for Perfection 9 Feb. 2008
By David A. Vosseller - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Perfectionist test:
Do you frequently feel that you don't measure up to the standards you should?
Do you turn down opportunities to serve in the church because you don't think you can do a ministry well?
Do you feel that other people don't do what they should do and it frustrates you?
Do you avoid risks because you can't stand to fail?
Are you often anxious about things or depressed at your circumstances?

If you answered `yes' to any of these questions, you might be a perfectionist! (And there are a lot of us out there!) Even if you do not necessarily think you struggle with perfectionism - you might, and even if you don't, you probably know someone else who does! Few things mute the impact and effects of the Gospel on our lives as much as perfectionism. And yet we have trouble recognizing the difference between striving for excellence in response to God, and living imprisoned in fear of God, ourselves or our neighbors through perfectionism. Richard Winter's new book Perfecting Ourselves to Death is helpful to all of us who want to have the Gospel impact our thoughts, hearts and behavioral patterns. Dr. Winter is a psychiatrist and professor of practical theology at Covenant Theological Seminary who trains pastors and counselors to apply the Gospel to the hearts and lives of themselves and the people they deal with. As such, this book is a wonderful combination of a clinical understanding of human behavior, coupled with a Biblical understanding of human struggles and the Biblical solution to these struggles. He writes with care, Biblical insight, and practical applications. He has also written this book in a very easy to read style without the normal technical and clinical verbiage that bogs down some writings on counseling:

"Most people worry to some degree, but worry about making mistakes, about making the wrong decision, about what others think, about doing well enough, and about failure and rejection are all a daily part of a perfectionist's life. Beneath these fears is a deep desire to gain approval and acceptance and to avoid shame and humiliation." (pp. 59).

Winters begins by describing the different types, aspects and categories of perfectionism and how they impact us. He also describes the different origins of perfectionist tendencies in us. He has a wonderful chapter on what the thought patterns of perfectionism look like. That it is characterized by "all or nothing" thinking, an intolerance of ambiguity, and what Winters calls the "Tyranny of Oughts and Shoulds":

"Unhealthy perfectionists tend to have very sensitive and sometimes distorted consciences. They often feel acute pangs of guilt or shame if they do not live up to their own, or others', expectations. Fear about what others will think about their decisions and actions becomes their central concern." (pp. 78).

He also shows how perfectionism is deeply fueled and empowered by the sins of pride and a demand to be in control. "From a Christian view of the world, here is one of the deepest motives of perfectionism: the desire to be ruler of our own world and to make sure we are in control." (pp. 126). He finishes the book with several helpful chapters that give both practical suggestions to help people change, and theological truth about the Gospel of grace to empower people to clarify their identity in Christ and change their hearts.

The Apostle Paul says, "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Gal. 5:1). Don't let perfectionism rob you of the freedom Christ has given you. You can use this wonderful book (and its short readable chapters) to help yourself or help others to apply that freedom to their lives and break the bonds of perfectionism. It's not a perfect book, but it points us to a perfect Savior.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A helpful book 2 Aug. 2006
By Friend - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dr. Winter's book is very easy to understand. He presents a lot of information about types of perfectionism, since it varies from person to person. He also talks about some of where it comes from, and practical and "spiritual" strategies/concepts that can help us toward overcoming it.

He also provides references from literature that can take us deeper if we wish, and has done a lot of good research in the wider literature on the topic to prepare this book. He also has a lot of relevant experience.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
You Might Be A Perfectionist If.... 20 Feb. 2013
By Oliver Bennett Pierce - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a great short read. It really dealt well with issue that I am slowly realizing I really struggle with. Dr. Winter deals with it on a spiritual and psychological level and his diagnosis is very practical and thorough. I benefited from his deeper theological meditations on why we feel the need to be perfect. This is a good read for everyone, even those who don't struggle with perfectionism...because you might and you don't know, and even if you don't you live in a society increasingly filled with and run by perfectionists.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Author clearly portrays definitive thoughts on thus topic. 20 Feb. 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really appreciated the definitions and the expounding upon the issues of perfectionism the scales of perfectionism all the things that affect it in our result of perfectionism. It allowed me to see perfection in my own life. I would highly recommend this to Everyone. Very useful and quick read.
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