Hamster Wheels

May 5, 2014

David Sorn

Are you on the hamster wheel of perfectionism? If so, find out how to get off!

Hamster Wheels

May 5, 2014

David Sorn

Are you on the hamster wheel of perfectionism? If so, find out how to get off!


Morning. David Sorn. Lead pastor here at Renovation Church.

I lost my voice completely on Tuesday night. Like, couldn’t make a sound. So we’ll see how this goes J

I think some of the toughest things about growing are is the expectations that are placed upon us by our parents.

You all had ‘em.

Sure they were different. But you had them.

Some of your parents expected you to always be the good little boy in public…or always look perfect around their friends.

Some of your parents expected you to get straight A’s.

Or make the varsity football team.

Or become a doctor, or a lawyer, or an astronaut, or to take over the family business.

And the reality is…you didn’t meet all of their expectations.

Not that all of our parents were even trying to place these things on us, but it happens.

And as we get older, we start developing expectations for ourselves:

I’m going to meet the perfect spouse

I’m going to get a great job

I’m going to actually like my job

I’m going to actually like my spouse

I’m going to be rich…

I’m going to……..

And for many of us…a lot of us…the drive for perfectionism is born.

Perfectionism is simply an obsession with doing everything perfectly because if you don’t do it perfectly, you feel like people won’t like you, and you aren’t worth anything.

Now, in my experience, a lot of people who are perfectionists, don’t know they’re perfectionists.

So track with me today…you might be one, and not even know it.

Or you might at least have tendencies in SOME of these areas

We’re going to break down perfectionism today

And I want to show you, from the Bible, that perfectionism is the wrong response to failure…or to sin.

And more importantly, I want to show you the right response. The healthy response.

And we’re doing that as we continue in our Future/Past series.

I said last week, so much of what causes us stress and pain in our lives is primarily about the future and the past.

And perfectionism is really an over-obsession with both.

Perfectionists drive themselves mad covering up their past mistakes and obsessing over how in the world they can keep up perfection in the future.

It’s a future/past problem.


So how are we supposed to live? And what are you supposed to do with your failures? And how big of a failure are you? And is that okay?

I want to look at a massive failure of one of the Bible’s biggest stars today…

And particularly how he handled it.

About 1,000 years before Jesus, Israel’s most famous King reigned. He had a great name. His name was King David.

David was a mighty king and a man after God’s heart.

Except, he had problems…like all of us do.

Anybody here have problems? Good, you fit right in.

And you can read about one of David’s biggest mistakes in 2 Samuel 11 & 12

King David lusts after a woman named Bathsheeba, sleeps with her, gets her pregnant, and then basically has her husband sent off to the front lines to hopefully die…so he won’t find out.

It’s like right out of a soap opera, except it’s a true story from the Bible.

David is then directly confronted about his sin by Nathan the prophet

David admits that he has sinned…and then later…he goes and he writes a song about his experience.

Now, that’s not what I would do personally…but I’m not a musician.

Many of the best songs ever written were birthed about of immense pain…and even regret.

And so David writes this incredible song…in the Bible, we call them Psalms, but they’re merely just words to songs they sang back then.

And his song really gives us a great framework for how we should respond to our sin…and even our failures.

And I want to cover it today…because I think it’s a perfect contrast to perfectionism.

Let’s take a look.

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(Psalm 51:1-4) – NIV

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion. Blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.

So David sits down to write this song…and one of the first things you notice is that he says, “I screwed up, God.”

So much of sad and angry songs on the radio today are about how someone ELSE screwed up…and I’m upset about it…

But David says, “I screwed up.”

I mean, how many different ways does he say sin: He says: Transgression, iniquity, sin, evil…all in 4 verses.

One of the best ways you can combat perfectionism in your life, is to be honest with God about your sin.

Let me ask you a question:

Do you ever at the end of your day, look back at your day, try and think through your wrongdoings, and ask for forgiveness?

Most of us never do.

We maybe ask God for a few things…but we rarely ever ask God for forgiveness.

Part of the reason so many of us are trapped in always trying to be so perfect, is because we have no daily routine of admitting our sin…like David does here.

If you added some sort of confession to your prayer time every day…I guarantee you would struggle with perfectionism less.

You can only struggle with perfectionism if you first believe the delusional idea that you’ve got a good shot at being perfect.

If you recounted your day, honestly, each day, you’d quickly go, “Well….that’s not gonna happen”

But we don’t…unlike King David, we leave that part of prayer out.

Notice what David said in verse 3 if you have it open in the app of in front of you…he says, “For I KNOW my transgressions, my sin is WHAT?? ALWAYS before me?”

How much are you aware of your sin each day?

And when you do become aware of your sin…or even your failures…go to God about it.

That’s another mistake perfectionists make.

They mess up. They bomb a test. They screw up at work. They say something stupid to their girlfriend or their spouse…

And for a moment, the light goes on that says , “Huh, maybe I’m not perfect”

But instead of taking that to God…they put themselves into the delusional hamster wheel of perfectionism!

Do you know what the delusional hamster wheel of perfectionism looks like??

It looks like this:

The perfectionism wheel is going round and round and round..

You’re running at incredible speeds…because you’ve got to show the world you’re PERFECT…

Some of the most driven people are perfectionists. Their drive isn’t necessarily altruistic…it’s merely in internal drive to show the world…or maybe just their parents…that they are good enough. They’re really something!

So perfectionists are running at incredible speeds…until…OOPS! Their foot gets caught in the hamster wheel, and they mess up…

And all of a sudden the wheel stops.

And here’s their chance to get off the delusional hamster wheel of perfectionism and bring their failures to God.

But for most perfectionists…when they screw up…They merely say, “I CAN NOT let that happen again! I Know what I’ll do! I’ll just work harder! I’ll just run faster!”

Until next time the fall is even bigger…but again say, “I’ll just work harder!”

But that’s not an accurate look at how God made you and who you are…and who God is.

Psalm 51 is going to build that for us.

And it starts with the fact that you’re not perfect. You’re not. Never will be.

I know how the delusional hamster wheel of perfectionism works first-hand.

I mentioned last week that I’m a recovering worry-aholic.

I’m also a recovering perfectionist.

Sometimes I feel like I’m a recovering everything.

I got a lot of problems, okay?

But it’s better to be in a place where you’re letting Jesus get in and renovate you than to do nothing.

I’m just thankful He’s doing work. For most of my life, I was too prideful to admit I even had any problems, let alone let Jesus work on them.

Perfectionists often are spiritual midgets.

Can I say midget? Too late.

They don’t grow spiritually.

Which perfectionists can’t believe because of course they’re growing spiritually! And doing it perfectly they might add!

But you CAN NOT grow spiritually if your aim is to find your self worth through your own accomplishments and the stuffing-under-the-rug of your failures.

You grow spiritually, by doing what King David did…

Admit your faults to God…and let Him work on them.

I’ve grown so much faster in Christ when I’ve started to say, “Hey God, here’s what I’m really bad at…help me”

Perfectionism is like the person who never wants to go the doctor because they don’t want to admit their sick or deal with the implications.

That’s great… but you’re not going to get healthy that way.

And you can’t keep that up forever. No, look at me…you can’t keep it up forever.

Eventually…something that you’ve left untreated…will wreck you.

My guess is that King David wishes that he would have brought some of these faults to God much sooner.


Let’s take a look at the next verse. David isn’t done hitting on this theme of imperfection.

(Psalm 51:5) – NIV

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

This is one of the main doctrines of Christianity actually.

It’s called the Doctrine of Original Sin.

It’s the idea that ever since Adam & Eve sinned in the garden, all of humanity has been sinful at birth

That…we’re drawn to sin like a magnet…

Or that, we are predisposed to sin. We like it.

And without God’s intervention and help…we gladly prefer it.

Solomon, David’s son actually, articulates on this more:

(Ecclesiastes 7:20) – NIV

Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.

And yet, perfectionists just don’t want to accept that.

It’s like they have something in their heads that say, “yeah….but I’m different”

I’m not like…the rest of people…those failures…

But they just conveniently pick their categories…

I’m not like those…people who didn’t get a college degree like I did.

I’m not like those…people who don’t raise kids just like I do…

And thus the pursuit of perfection carries on.

And it’s, thus, a SHOCK…if things go wrong.

In my life, growing up, there were always people that if one thing went wrong…they were done for the day…checked out.

How could that have happened?!

How could what have happened???


Well, for one, you were born that way.

But so many of us are like this.

You get one bad review at work…your life is over.

You have one big fight with your spouse…the marriage is in jeopardy.

Some of the happiest marriages aren’t necessarily those that have the least amount of problems, just those that best deal with their problems.

I have a friend in my life that’s much older than me, and sometimes I’ll complain to him about how I messed something up.

And he’ll always say, “Well, you’re human right? Right? RIGHT??”


You’re human. You’re gonna fail. You’re going to sin. You’re imperfect.


To which, you want to know what perfectionists say?

I can tell you exactly what they say…

Maybe you just said this:

They say, “Oh come on! What is this? Hippy talk? No one’s perfect, you’re going to fail sometime… So let’s just all GIVE UP and stand around and sing cheesy Bruno Mars songs...about just the way you are!” PERFECT!

To which, King David, who also must be in your head…says this…verse 6

(Psalm 51:6) – NIV

Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

This is brilliant.

He says…I was sinful even in the womb…YET…EVEN SO…God desired that He do the right thing. That he be faithful even so.

To God… To his wife.

He taught it to Him. God taught Him wisdom…but David just ignored it.

Verse 6 is David’s quick, yet important, parentheses to make sure you all don’t fall for the lie of secular culture.

The lie goes something like this: “You’re imperfect…you’re going to fail…SO…it doesn’t matter what you do”

No, the truth is this: “You’re imperfect…but aim to please God in everything anyway”

You’re never going to get there.

If perfection is the moon, you’re going to get about as close as a 4 year old jumping off the ground.

But still aim for it, by the grace of God aim for it.

Aim to live a holy life, in every single thing you do

But realize…you’re human. You’re imperfect.

You need Him.

You need Him to even get a foot off the ground

King David just wants to make sure you don’t use your imperfection as an excuse to not radically try and live for God.


So you’re imperfect. You screw up. A lot.

Maybe you’ve even screwed up big time.

What do you do about it?

Well, let’s look at David’s request to God

(Psalm 51:7-9) – NIV

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

He pleas with God to forgive him. Believing that, by faith, God can do just that.

But, in the drive to be perfect…this is one of the hardest things.

This is where perfectionists…(and even if you’re not one, you can still have this issue)…this is where we can get stuck in the past.

Perfectionists simply can not forgive themselves for the past.

They can’t move beyond it. They’re perpetually stuck there.

Their past failures loom over them.

Ever present reminders that they have not hit their goal of perfection

Now, they’d never admit it…but deep inside…the shame is hard to bear.

This is one of the reasons some of the most driven and successful people on earth: Doctors, CEO’s, lawyers, etc. have some of the highest rates of alcoholism & other addictions.

The drive for perfection is SO strong…yet the inward shame for not achieving it is even stronger.

But they can’t admit that…so they numb it out…with drinking…with sex…with porn…with any sort of addiction.

I think a lot of it goes back to what so many of us craved from our parents but never got.

We wanted them to tell us: I’m proud of you. I love you no matter what.

And maybe they said that to you when they you were 4. But maybe not at 15. Or 20. Or 30.

And so…we set out to live this great life that’ll finally do them proud!

Academic achievement, career success, being the perfect spouse, getting the perfect house, raising the perfect kids!

But let me just stop and speak some truth to you:

You never were perfect, you’re not perfect, and you’re not going to be perfect …HOWEVER….

Your HEAVENLY FATHER…loves you anyway.

See, here’s the thing…maybe no one’s told you in your adult years that they “just” love you.

But let me tell you something: You’re God’s child.

God didn’t look at you when you were a little baby and say, “Hey! Now…if you want me to love you someday…you better do this, this, and this! Earn it!”

He just loves you. He just loves you. He just loves you.

He’s unlike anyone else. You’re never going to earn his favor. No matter HOW good you are.

He just gives it. That’s grace.

You’re never going to live an acceptable and perfect life, but Jesus lived one in your place.

And he died on the cross, in your place, taking the punishment for your sin and imperfections.

And he was the perfect and holy sacrifice because he HAD no sin.

And if you believe that Jesus died for you on the cross, you are completely forgiven.

(Colossians 1:22) – NIV

22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—

This is the kind of forgiveness stuff King David was talking about.

He said that the forgiveness of God, the love of God will make you white as snow…it will blot out your sin.

Here’s the imagery he’s talking about.

Kings in those days, made a record of every event on papyrus.

And the imagery is of God…making a record of all of your life…and all of your sin…

But when you’re a believer in Jesus…God takes the ink…and he blots out all the parts about your sin!

It’s crazy! But he does it!

They don’t count against you!

Because of his love!

So let’s talk about this Biblically now…

Because the perfectionist…for that short moment the hamster wheel stops and they have clarity…says, “Oh man, I screwed up….just work harder so that never happens again!”

But an accurate look at your life…a Biblical look is this: “I screwed up. But I’m human. I’m human. I’m not perfect. And Jesus died for me anyway. And if I’m a believer (which I pray you are…if you’re not yet…ask someone about it)…

If I’m a believer…then He has wiped away that sin I just committed.

It’s gone. I’m forgiven.

And thus, you don’t need to fall on either extreme of the continuum anymore

Not the extreme that says, “Oh…I’m forgiven…so…I’ll do whatever I want!”

Nor the extreme that says, “I must work harder…I have to be better!”

No, you can Biblically live in the middle, which just simply says, “Well, I’m human, messed up again…Thank God I’m forgiven. Thank God Jesus died for that too”

AND…because he would die for me…I want to live for Him.

You’re not striving for perfection per se…but you’re chasing hard after Jesus.

Really, your goal isn’t to do everything right…your goal is just to follow Jesus.

And there’s a huge difference.

And following Jesus is what gives you a joy you didn’t have in the wheel of perfectionism

(Psalm 51:10-12) – NIV

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

So the next time you trip up in your hamster wheel…

And the world stops for a moment, and you think, “I messed up.”

You’ve got two options:

You can A) Get back on the delusional hamster wheel of perfection…and just work harder.

Or B) Step out of the wheel.

And get on the moving sidewalk of God’s grace.

That’s what it’s like!

You know like those moving sidewalks they have in the airport?

You just say, “God, I can’t do this on my own…It’s not working. But I know you can change me! You can help me”

I mean, how many of you need to just tell God this morning, “I can’t do this on my own. I’m a mess. I nee dyou.”

If you do, tell him! Go ahead, tell him!

Let God start to the work in your life.

This is how you get to the part where David says, “restore me to the JOY of your salvation”

You follow the pattern of King David.

And you admit your faults.

You realize you’ve been sinful from birth and that ain’t changing anytime soon

And you ask forgiveness.

And then, relax a little. Ride the moving sidewalk of grace.

Perfectionists are some of the most stressed out, uptight, people in the world because the anxiety level of always trying to be perfect…(in the past, in the future) always running in the wheel…is exhausting.

But if you follow this Biblical pattern of admitting your faults, asking for forgiveness, and letting God forgive you and move you.

You will find so much more rest in your life.

So get out of the wheel, and get on God’s moving sidewalk of grace.

Perfectionism, like a hamster wheel, isn’t going to take you anywhere anyway. .

Perfectionism, will just drive you made.

Grace, will drive you to God.

Let’s pray.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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