Is good enough OK? Must I always do my best? If I can come in 1st place, is it ok to come in 2nd place? What is the “down” side of instructing a child this way? Or is there a “down” side to egging on a child always to do his/her best? Is it a matter of using the talents God gives? Is the competitive spirit good? Or might it be harmful? What is the alternative to the competitive spirit? There was an occasion when Jesus seemed to criticize the competitive spirit in His disciples. But what do we see operative in Jesus Himself, in this regard? What’s the import of His remark that if we’re faithful in small things we will be faithful in the greater? Must I use every talent I have? Or just the ones I’m comfortable/satisfied with?
What’s the import of the teacher saying: “Come on, you can do better than that?” Does this depress the student and make him/her give up? Or does it goad him or her to get more serious about the task at hand? Is it good enough to provide a school for a child to attend which he or she looks forward to, or should the good parent seek out a school with rigid academic standards that promise entrée to elite schools of higher education?
I might ask what I expect from someone serving me or waiting on me, such as the waitress in the restaurant, the stock-broker commissioned to buy or sell on my behalf, or the realtor whom I asked to search for a house. Do I want a good enough job, or an outstanding performance? Perhaps the way one works on commission indicates the level of performance with which he or she is satisfied.
Is my manner of tipping indicative of what I’m looking for from others. Am I more generous with the person who does the perfect job or do I tip everyone the same, regardless? I can look at my own expectation of what to expect in return for a task I do for another: am I satisfied with a smile, a pat on the back, or a nondescript response like: “good job”? Some seem concerned about the growth of “grade-inflation” in our schools, when a B is regarded almost a failure because everyone expects, and often receives, an A. If a child can “get by” with little or no effort in school, what impact does that have on highly motivated students trying to do their best, and win recognition.
What does the “arms race” among nations mean? Is it imperative for the welfare and security of a nation to have the best and the most modern weapons available to provide adequately for its citizens? Does the US fail its citizens if China develops more destructive weapons systems than the US?
Parents feel the pressure of neighbors who provide their children the most up to date electronic devices as Christmas gifts for their children. But what if the children are more intrigued by the boxes and wrapping paper around the gifts than with the gifts themselves? What is “good enough” for the child? Does not a parent think his or her daughter “pretty enough” even if not the most gorgeous young girl in the neighborhood? Or isn’t that parent proud enough of a son securing a second string position on the school football team even if not the first string role to which the boy aspired, What does Jesus mean for us to be “perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect”? We inflate our English language by our use of superlatives. This is the best movie I’ve ever seen or the most fun I’ve ever had or an extremely good restaurant. Most of us don’t pump premium gas into our cars. Regular is good enough. Language too can suffer from inflation, so that words, like money, don’t have the significance they used to have. Perhaps we should watch our language.
We are a community of laymen and laywomen who, with vowed Passionists, seek to share in the charism of St. Paul of the Cross through prayer, ongoing spiritual formation, and proclamation of the message of Christ Crucified.
One thought on “Why not “Good Enough”?”
You ask, is the competitive spirit good. Yes, certainly it is, but in 21st Century America it has become the guiding principle. I think we’ve overdone this competition business in our schools, in our business world and god knows in the social world. I think, what we need much more today is collaboration. Collaboration can moderate competition, but for now it’s going to take a whole lot of collaboration before we find a balance.