When I saw that Colleen Carroll Campbell had a book coming out, it took me approximately two seconds to preorder it.
And then it came.
“You don’t have to be a congenital perfectionist like me to have a problem with perfectionism,” she writes in chapter 1 of The Heart of Perfection: How the Saints Taught Me to Trade My Dream of Perfect for God’s. “Nor must you demand flawlessness in every part of your life. Perfectionism is simply an addiction to control and a refusal to accept imperfection in some human endeavor.”
Hard stop. Full pause. Head explosion.
Perfectionism is a problem with control? Perfectionism is a problem with control?
Just looking at the chapter titles reveals the journey Campbell leads you on:
- An Ancient Lie
- The Struggle for Gentleness
- Stalking Joy
- Braving the Waves
- The War Within
- A Passionate Balance
- Pilgrims and Strangers
- From Head to Heart
In each chapter, Campbell introduces a saint — and often more than one — who accompanied her in her struggle with perfectionism. They’re not just added in, either: they are a beautiful part of the tapestry and lessons we can learn about what perfectionism is (and is not).
The perfectionism struggle is one that spoke to me on a deep, moving level.
Perfectionism is, after all, a “problem,” one that’s very much in quotes, because, come on: Do you really think it’s a problem?
It’s the “problem” many of us love to have, isn’t it? We glory in it: “Oh, I’d stop checking email on vacation, but I’m such a perfectionist and don’t want to let things slip by me.” We pride ourselves in it: “Well, good enough is never really good enough.” We bask in it: “I can’t help it, really.”
So much of this book felt like it was written for me. Campbell is a mentor who walks the talk and talks the walk. She opens up to the reader and, in doing that, challenges each of us to open up to ourselves and, ultimately, to God.
“Praying for deliverance from fear is a crucial step for spiritual perfectionists. But before we can see freedom, we must recognize we are bound. That‘s often a harder step. Fear is a sneaky demon; it wears many disguises. And sometimes the religious voices we turn to for clarity and support only make us feel more afraid, embarrassed, and alone.”
Highly recommended, whether you’re looking for good writing or spiritual reading. This book fires on all cylinders, even if it’s not a car (it is a great ride, though!).