Does Practice Make Perfect?

Practice makes perfect!”  Is this true?  Does practice make perfect?

The origin of this familiar proverb comes from the Latin, “uses promptos facit” meaning
“use makes perfect.”  Teachers, trainers and coaches have used this phrase for years to encourage students and athletes to practice.  The idea is that through consistent, repetitive practice you can increase your skills and achieve your goals.*

Although continuous, dedicated practice shows discipline and hard work, the reality is, practice alone cannot make us perfect. Practice increases productivity, improves performance, and may enable us to reach an exceptional level of accuracy.  It cannot however, make us perfect!

So, why do we continue to foster this myth on our students, our children and ourselves?  A quick search on the Internet turns up some scary thinking about how intentional practice can make you the best in anything you want to do.  Practice is important, but we cannot practice our way into perfection!

Not only does practice not make perfect, it cannot make up for a lack of talent.  The NBC reality show, “America’s Got Talent,” underscores this truth.  Singers, dancers, magicians, comedians, and other performers compete for the prize of one million dollars. However, some of the people who try out for this talent show appear to have no talent at all.

I remember, as a youngster growing up, I loved to play basketball and dreamed of becoming a professional player in the NBA. I practiced like crazy, thinking that practice would somehow make up for my lack of talent. I had a little talent and an enormous amount of desire, but playing in the NBA was not going to happen regardless of how much I practiced.

Is there anything that can make us perfect?  That depends on our definition of perfect. If perfection is “an unsurpassable degree of accuracy or excellence in an activity or performance,” then I am afraid none of us will ever achieve it.  Nothing is “unsurpassable.”  There is always room for improvement and growth.  If we define perfection as “freedom from fault or defect,” then there is no hope for any of us to be perfect, with or without practice.

When I think about perfection, there is only one person who comes to mind who was and is, perfect.  That person is Jesus – the One we worship as Lord and God.  Practice did not make Him perfect.  He is perfect by nature, and completely without sin or fault.  Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin, to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

The One who “had no sin” was “made sin” on our behalf, so we might “become” the very righteousness of God.  What an awesome thought!  What a life-changing truth.  We will never achieve perfection on our own, yet in Christ we can become the very righteousness of God!

We can say with confidence, practice does not make perfect.  With equal confidence we can say, the only perfect person who ever lived, gave His life so we might have a perfect right standing before God.  Through His death on a cross, Jesus makes us perfect in His righteousness!

Practice does not make us perfect!  However, Jesus’ death on the cross can give you a perfect standing before a Holy and Righteous God.  In this sense, you become perfect in Him.  That is why Paul said with conviction, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come.  Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

Stop trying to practice your way to perfection.  It cannot be done!  Put your trust in the only One who is perfect – Jesus Christ.

Larry Doyle

  • * From “Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings” by Gregory Y. Titleman (Random House, New York, 1996)

Published by Larry Doyle

Dr. Larry S. Doyle is the Director of Missions of the Piedmont Baptist Association He has served as Director of Missions since September 1, 2003. His ministry began in the pastorate in Kentucky, his native state. He served as pastor of three churches while completing his undergraduate, graduate and post graduate degrees. He and his wife Becky, a native of Greensboro, served as IMB/SBC missionaries in Ecuador from 1980 to 1992. He then came to the Triad to pastor the Hispanic Baptist Church in Kernersville, NC from 1992 to 2000. He and his wife served as the On-site Coordinator for Disaster Relief in Honduras from January 2000 to January 2001. Dr. Doyle was the International Ministries Director for the Baptist Metrolina Ministries in Charlotte, NC from 2001 to 2003. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Western Kentucky University, and received a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Larry and Becky have two sons, Steve and Tim, and are the proud grandparents of three. They attend Calvary Baptist Church in McLeansville.

One thought on “Does Practice Make Perfect?

  1. I came across your blog and I was encouraged by your post! I’m so happy that I don’t have to try and be perfect anymore because of Jesus. It’s such a blessing, especially to those of us who try to find our self worth in how well we do at something. It’s just God loving us, right now, as we are today. Keep up the great posts!

    -Tasha, The Bridge Chicago

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