In these articles, I explore the wide realm of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and delve into how our thoughts shape our inner worlds, external behaviors, and moods.

Are you a perfectionist? Do you or someone you love always demand perfection?

A chronic demand for perfection afflicts many. It is an unhelpful outlook that disturbs the mind and disrupts one’s mood. Demanding that this flawed world be perfect or ideal is just not realistic and will result in repeated disappointments over time. Such disappointments, big and small, can’t help but stack up and finally result in growing anxiety and depression. The severity of these mood disorders may correspond directly to how demanding of perfection one is without changing this unfortunate outlook on life.

The antidote for demanding perfection is the virtue that has been called Metaphysical Security (Elliot Cohen, Logic-Based Therapy and Everyday Emotions). I like using another word: Faith. Faith as a virtue is easier to understand than the clunky term Metaphysical Security. Everyone has faith, for faith is universal to human experience. James Fowler in Stages of Faith famously explained “the dynamics of faith [is] the way we go about making and maintaining meaning in life” (p. xii). If you’ve formed beliefs about yourself, others, and the world, you have faith. Faith equals meaning. Getting a grip on meaning provides security in a scary world.

And part of a healthy, realistic belief framework recognizes that the world is flawed, and imperfections are a part of life. A healthy mind is able to flex with the hits of imperfection and rebound to a balanced shape.

Now, the virtue of Faith is usually associated with religion. It must be recognized, however, that religion is also fundamental to human experience (although we are not used to thinking of it that way). Religion is the deepest level of meaning in the world, which is why all cultures before our modern times had a meaning-making framework as a basic part of their culture. Our meaning-making today is usually meaning-destroying, built as it is out of the weak beams of consumerism and the empty promises for all that is fleeting, such as beauty and wealth.

Religion has always done the yeoman’s work for the virtue of Faith, providing the grand narratives, the myths, that explain why the world is the way it is and how everything will be made right. And what our place is within the world.

An example. Eastern Orthodox Christianity teaches humanity was made in both the image and likeness of God, but the likeness was lost in a cascade of withdraws (or falls) from divine grace. Jesus Christ, who is the Logos of God incarnate, came and restored human nature, inviting all to become disciples of his way of healing grace. Human life becomes about regaining the lost divine likeness of God, the restoration to full humanity—becoming gods by grace. Traditionally, the faithful use this narrative to find their place of belonging in a fallen world and achieve the virtue of Faith. Faith is also contextual. In the Eastern Orthodox context, for example, Faith is more like a verb than a noun: faithfulness, the ongoing action of living as the world really is according to the revelation of God. This provides deep security.

In our day, fewer people are diligent about a faithful (Faith-full) life, so fewer people feel secure in the deepest sense. The rejection of religion, or the denigration of religion, robs people of one of the most fundamental helps to mental health and a sound mind. Rather than demanding perfection, therefore, we discover Faith points to the (re)discovery of meaning, which helps us accept risks in life and embrace hope as a basic part of living.