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Perfecting Ourselves to Death: The Pursuit of Excellence and the Perils of Perfectionism Paperback – April 23, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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)

About the Author

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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 205 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (April 23, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830832599
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830832590
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Erik Olson VINE VOICE on December 1, 2006
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.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David A. Vosseller on February 9, 2008
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.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Friend on August 1, 2006
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Oliver Bennett Pierce on February 20, 2013
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 19, 2014
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By markm on April 5, 2013
Format: Paperback
Dr. winter's book is one of the most helpful resources I recommend for counseling clients struggling with perfectionist traits. I have read it 5 times myself, as a recovering perfectionist.
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