Perfecting Ourselves to Death: The Pursuit of Excellence and the Perils of Perfectionism, By Richard Winter

Perfecting Ourselves to Death

The Pursuit of Excellence and the Perils of Perfectionism

by Richard Winter

Perfecting Ourselves to Death
  • Length: 205 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: March 23, 2005
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 3259
  • ISBN: 9780830832590

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Honored as a "Year's Best Book for Preachers" by Preaching magazine.

Perfect body. Perfect clothes. Perfect family. Perfect house. Perfect job.

We strive for excellence in all areas of our lives. And there's nothing wrong with a healthy, mature pursuit of excellence. But what begins as healthy and normal can sometimes become neurotic and abnormal, leading to debilitating thoughts and behaviors:

  • eating disorders
  • anxiety and depression
  • obsession and compulsions
  • fear of failure
  • relational dysfunction

In Perfecting Ourselves to Death, Richard Winter explores the positive and negative effects of perfectionism on our lives. He looks at the seductive nature of perfectionism as it is reflected in today's media. He examines the price and perils of perfectionism. And he explores the roots of perfectionism, delving into what originally awakens this drive in us. After analyzing the negative feelings and defeatist behaviors that unhealthy perfectionism births, he provides practical strategies for how to change.

"The important thing to see," writes Winter, "is that we are to strive to become better people, not just to be content with who we are or how we measure up to the standards of the culture around us." For Christians this means becoming more like Christ in every area of our lives.

Here is the "perfect" book for those who struggle with perfectionism and for those pastors, counselors and friends who want to understand and help perfectionists.

"Are we called to be perfect by Jesus? Yes. Are we capable of being perfect? Absolutely not. Richard Winter in his generous, brilliant and compelling style ushers us through the conundrum and then takes us to the glory of a God who was perfect on my behalf to bear the weight of my imperfection. This book is hopeful beyond words and a delight to read. You will be prepared to know the profound desire to be holy against the unholy desire to be perfect. Prepare to fly in the face of the false god of perfectionism."

Dan B. Allender, President, Mars Hill Graduate School, and author of The Wounded Heart and To Be Told

"What is the difference between striving for excellence and seeking perfection? The former is attainable, the latter is not. The former spurs us on, the latter so often leads to chronic frustration, even despair and depression.

"In Perfecting Ourselves to Death Dr. Winter ably explores this apparent paradox, and charts the emergence of perfectionism with its varied origins in our genetic inheritance, upbringing, temperament and motivation.

"As a teacher and counselor, he combines a background of medicine and psychiatry along with a clear biblical foundation and many years of pastoral experience. The result is a book which is thoughtful, clear and accessible and will provide an invaluable practical resource for preachers, counselors and sufferers alike."

Monty Barker, Consultant Psychiatrist and Visiting Professor of Psychiatry and Pastoral Care

"Here is a clinically competent discipling resource that has been written to help Christians see how dehumanizing perfectionism spoils lives and to show how it may be overcome in Christ. To the other-oriented perfectionists, self-oriented perfectionists and other frazzled folk whom Professor Winter addresses he shows himself a truly wise guide."

J. I. Packer, Board of Governors Professor of Theology, Regent College

"Somewhere in each of us there is always a voice that says, 'Not yet have you done enough.' Richard Winter helps us identify the source of the voice, whether it echoes from ancient caverns of parental criticism, the packaged idealisms of pop culture or the streams of doubt flowing from a damaged soul. Then he surprises us by showing that the echoes cannot come from everywhere if they are not true. The joy of this wonderful book is not its denial of the truths of our perfectionism but the writer's delight in the greater truths that drown the echoes of our self-doubt in a voice of love far greater."

Dr. Bryan Chapell, President, Covenant Theological Seminary


1. The Seductive Sirens of Perfectionism
2. The Pursuit of Excellence: Healthy or Unhealthy Perfectionism?
3. Types of Perfectionism
4. Depression, Anger and Eating Disorders
5. Worry, Anxiety and Obsessions
6. The Thought Patterns of Perfectionism
7. Genes and Temperament
8. Shame and Guilt
9. Parental Influences
10. The Pressures of Culture and Media
11. Anal Fixations and Other Weird and Wonderful Ideas
12. Perfectionism and Pride: The Road to Hell . . . or Heaven?
13. Learning to Live with Imperfection: Strategies for Change
14. The Search for Identity and Purpose
15. Toward Maturity: The Healthy Pursuit of Excellence and Perfection
Appendix: Perfectionism in History and Religion
Name Index
Subject Index
Scripture Index


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Richard Winter

Dr. Richard Winter, husband and father of four grown children, is a psychotherapist, counselor, and professor of practical theology at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. A native of Britain, he trained in medicine and psychiatry in England and has lived in the United States since 1992. His books include Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment and Perfecting Ourselves to Death.