Winner of the 2020 Catholic Press Association Book Award
In a book hailed as “liberating” (Gary Chapman, New York Times bestselling author), an award-winning author and mother of four weaves her own stories and struggles with those of seven ex-perfectionist saints (and one heretic) who show us how to pursue a new kind of perfection: freedom in Christ.
Spiritual perfectionism—an obsession with flawlessness rooted in the belief that we can earn God’s love—is dangerous because so many of us mistake it for virtue. Its toxic cycle of pride, sin, shame, blame, and despair distorts our vision, dulls our faith, and leads us to view others through the same hypercritical lens we think God is using to view us.
As a lifelong overachiever who drafted her first résumé in sixth grade and spell-checked her high school boyfriend’s love letters, Colleen Carroll Campbell knows something about the perfectionist trap. But it was only after she became a mother that she started to see how insidiously perfectionism had infected her spiritual life, how lethal it could be to her happiness and her family, and how disproportionately it afflicts the people working hardest to serve God.
In the ruins of her own mistakes, Colleen dug into Scripture and the lives of the canonized saints for answers. She discovered to her surprise that many holy men and women were, in fact, recovering perfectionists. And their grace-fueled victory oer this malady—not perfectionist striving—was the key to their heroic virtue and contagious joy.
In The Heart of Perfection, Colleen weaves the stories and wisdom of seven ex-perfectionist saints (and one heretic) with Scripture and beautifully crafted tales of her own trial-and-error experiments in applying that wisdom to her life. Gorgeously written and deeply insightful, Colleen Carroll Campbell’s The Heart of Perfection is a “must-read” (Jeannie Gaffigan, executive producer of The Jim Gaffigan Show) that “gives us permission to…walk in the freedom of God’s unconditional love” (Jennifer Fulwiler, author of One Beautiful Dream).
For a free Heart of Perfection reading guide for book clubs, visit Colleen-Campbell.com.
Campbell (My Sisters the Saints), a journalist and former speechwriter for George W. Bush, balances confessional anecdotes with persuasive modern interpretations of the lives of the saints in this enjoyable testimony. Campbell links theological teachings about perfection with the psychological concept of perfectionist behavior. They are not the same thing, she writes, but can help readers to think about connections between Christian teachings and the psychology of perfection. She does this through insightful readings of the lives of seven saints whom she characterizes as "recovering perfectionists." For each, she uncovers the real human who became a timeless role model through spiritual hard work, and also speaks about how those experiences relate to her daily life raising and homeschooling twins. Patience is demonstrated by Saint Jane de Chantal, a "Type-A seventeenth-century French wife, mother, widow, and nun... and also unlikely patron of saint of gentleness," and discernment by an "impetuous" Saint Ignatius, known as the "mystic of moods and thoughts." Campbell is a fluid writer, making her histories and personal anecdotes blend seamlessly, as when she compares her love for the ocean (which she now sees in her kids) as a metaphor for the leap of faith. For Catholics who want to live their religious convictions more fully, Campbell is a good guide to everyday practice, and perfectionists of any religious persuasion will also benefit from this gratifying work.