Picture Perfect: When Life Doesn't Line Up
by Amy Baker
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As a culture, we have a love-hate relationship with perfectionism. We reward perfectionists for their insistence on setting high standards and their tireless efforts to achieve them. But psychologists link perfectionism with a host of problematic behaviors ranging from eating disorders to risk aversion to workaholism. Perfectionism is a crushing burden that can leave us angry, anxious, and paralyzed.
Is the solution just to “lighten up”? In Picture Perfect, counselor and author Amy Baker challenges the popular notion that perfectionists need to lower their standards. After carefully examining Scripture and drawing from 25 years of counseling experience, Baker concludes, “The problem is not that our standards are too high and we just need to lighten up. The problem is that God’s instruction to be perfect in Matthew 5:48 doesn’t lead us to see how desperately we need him and drive us to our perfect Savior.”
Helping readers to dig beneath the frustration of perfectionism, Baker exposes what drives our perfectionism and shows how Christ’s perfection changes our motives, beliefs, desires, fears, anxieties, and goals. Readers will discover that only God’s grace can transform the aching “not enough” of perfectionism into the overflowing abundance of faith.
Amy Baker, PhD, is the Ministry Resource Director at Faith Church (Lafayette, IN); Director of Counseling for Vision of Hope, a faith-based residential treatment program; Instructor and counselor at Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries; a council member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition: and the author of Getting to the Heart of Friendships as well as several counseling minibooks. She and her husband Jeff have two children.
"I have found in my own counseling ministry that perfectionism is a major problem that dominates the lives of too many Christians. It robs them of their joy in Christ and makes them difficult to live around. Dr. Amy Baker has poured into this critical work great wisdom that comes from years of her own personal counseling ministry. Her approach to this destructive problem is refreshingly insightful because she takes the sufficiency of God’s Word seriously. Not only does this enable her to unscramble the real problem biblically, but it also enables her to prescribe practical answers with scriptural insight."
John D. Street, Chair of the MABC Graduate Program, The Master’s College; president, the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC)
"I've been a pastor and counselor for over twenty-five years now and this is a book I'll be handing out! Christians sing about amazing grace, but too often still live by the law of their own hard work and perfectionistic striving. Amy's done a great job tackling an issue that flies right in the face of the gospel and God's grace but seldom gets addressed head-on or with the insights that Amy brings to this subject. She exposes not only the hub of the perfectionistic heart, but so many of the related sinful 'spokes' that are connected to this one heart issue—guilt, fear, pride, anxiety, and heightened sensitivity to criticism. And she diagnoses and explains it all so well with practical examples and clear, biblical teaching. Amy doesn't just point out the danger; she shows you where and how to get free and rest in God's grace. This book brings you back to the only perfect person—our Savior, Jesus Christ."
Brad Bigney, MDiv, Pastor, Grace Fellowship in Florence, KY; ACBC certified counselor; author of Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols
"I am so thankful that Amy Baker has taken decades of counseling experience and turned it into this wonderfully helpful book. Loaded with Scripture and practical application, this book is just what you need to combat the bitter roots of perfectionism growing in your heart."
Heath Lambert, Executive Director of The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (formerly, NANC); associate professor of Biblical Counseling at Southern Seminary and Boyce College; author of Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace
"I counsel, rub shoulders with, and too often resemble Taylor, Ian, Penny, Li ('not satisfied with the way God set up his universe'—ouch!), and the rest of the compelling, real-life situations Amy Baker unpacks. The tension she addresses is inescapable: God commands perfection but our ongoing sin prevents it. We then respond with anger, frustration, anxiety, and guilt. Without removing this tension, Baker uncovers the heart disorders beneath the many strains of perfectionism and she carefully provides Christ-centered, biblical counsel for each."
Robert D. Jones, MDiv, DMin, Professor, Southeastern Seminary; author of Uprooting Anger and Pursuing Peace
"If you care about not just what your counselees or congregants hear, but also how they hear it, this book is for you. With a gracious and encouraging tone, Amy Baker connects and applies the believer's identity in Christ with the empty promises of striving to live by perfect performance. Amy uses personal stories to demonstrate both the practicality and ability of living life in and through the power of the gospel."
Kevin Carson, DMin, Pastor, Sonrise Baptist Church, Ozark, MO; Professor of Biblical Counseling, Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary, Springfield, MO
"Amy Baker has written a skillful and insightful book to help the perfectionist. Her illustrations are good, and the Scriptures that she uses are practical and powerful. As an exhorter, Amy uses her God-given gift to help turn the perfectionist from self-centered introspection to God-centered praise. I thank God for this book and Amy's heart for God's glory. I look forward to using it in my counseling ministry."
Martha Peace, Biblical counselor; author of The Excellent Wife
"In this book, Picture Perfect, Amy has given biblical insight into a form of legalism, self-righteousness, and a performance-based way of living that subtly and perhaps not so subtly turns people away from living in the richness of God's grace through Jesus Christ. And more than that, she has also shown the effects of this attitude on the person and others with whom this person associates. Having done that, she then goes on to prescribe a realistic and very helpful biblical plan for overcoming this self-righteous way of living. I will recommend this book."
Wayne Mack, Strengthening Ministries Training Institute, Pretoria, South Africa; pastor/elder of Lynnwood Baptist Church, Pretoria, South Africa
"Amy Baker has written a book that strikes at the root of those of us who still act like we live under the law. Perfectionism is a yoke God never intended for anyone to carry. Amy helps us to see where we have put performance over relationship, where we have tried to prove our worth rather than live under God's amazing grace. I would highly recommend this book for those who don't just need to 'lighten up' but instead are ready to surrender and rest in the perfection of Jesus knowing his yoke is easy and his burden is light."
Garrett Higbee, PsyD, Executive Director of Biblical Soul Care at Harvest Bible Chapel