The Enemy of Good

It’s been too long, friends! And I’m sorry about that. I haven’t forgotten about you! I had a good excuse for a while–I was finishing my Master’s dissertation. Embroiled in writing a 28,000-word document, I just didn’t savor the prospect of sitting down and writing more. But I turned that in over three weeks ago, so I can’t use it as an excuse anymore. It did take a couple of weeks for my brain to wrap itself around the fact that I don’t have to think about apps and linkages ALL THE TIME and to stop having nightmares about forgetting to submit my paper. And I’ve FINALLY been getting in some of the travel (around England, at least) that I’ve been meaning to do for the past year. But really those are just excuses.

The truth is, I’ve had a massive case of writer’s block. When I started writing this blog, I promised myself that I would only write when I wanted to, because I knew if I tried to set myself a rigorous schedule I would miss a self-inflicted deadline or two, feel guilty and overwhelmed, and stop before I ever got off the ground. The only reason I’m still blogging over two years later is that I’ve kept this promise to myself. And recently I just haven’t wanted to write. Frankly, I’ve been too overwhelmed. My brain has been gridlocked. By EVERYTHING. The American election and surrounding outrageous politics. The ever-changing lockdown rules. The church’s reaction to COVID. Making decisions about my Future (with a capital F). I’ve been having a great deal of trouble talking to God because I have no idea what He’s up to, with my life or anything else in this nutty world, and He doesn’t seem interested in sharing. I no longer trust anyone’s opinion about anything because everyone has some sort of bias and/or agenda (yes, this includes myself). The world seems to be caught in an unstoppable vortex headed straight down the toilet, and I wonder if it’s gone past the point of no return. As far as my own life goes, I have absolutely no idea (I’m 100% not exaggerating at all, I mean NO IDEA) what I want to do or where I want to be. I keep hoping I’ll recognize it when I see it. No luck with that yet…

Not an especially happy place to be. It really is gridlock. 10,000 worried thoughts trying to get somewhere at the same time, so everything comes to a complete standstill. Fortunately, I have a part-time job now that requires a great deal of attention. Thank God for things to do…some of my thoughts have to exit and go to work, so the gridlock thins. And my roommate, God bless her, gave me a much-needed dose of reality a few days ago. During probably our millionth talk about life, the world, America, and the virus, I think she could sense my hopelessness. “Allison, you can’t carry the whole world on your shoulders, you know.” Valid point. Somehow, that simple and (you’d think) obvious statement helped. I can’t carry the whole world on my shoulders. It’s not my burden, thank God. And, amazingly, I think I’ve dropped it. At least some of it. I’ve actually felt more relaxed in the last couple days than I have in months…maybe years?

Why have I felt like it is my burden? I watched a movie called The Circle a couple years back. I didn’t like the movie all that much, but there was a scene where the protagonist is in an interview and is asked what her biggest fear is. Her immediate response is, “Unfulfilled potential.” That resonated all over the place with me. The parable of the talents, for example, has always kind of scared the crap out of me. I feel like I’ve been entrusted with quite a few talents; I have an amazing family, had an amazing upbringing. I’m bright and competent and have never been short of open doors to walk through. As someone once told me, “I have no excuses.” It’s a blessing, but as life has gone on and I’ve felt I had very little to show for it, I’ve begun to feel that it might be a bit of a curse as well. I’ve begun to start to fear that question when I get to the end of life. “You were given everything. What do you have to show for it?” I fear it will be very little. So I run around like a crazy person trying to figure out how to change the world in every conceivable way immediately and achieve…gridlock.

You’ve probably heard the quote, “Good is the enemy of great.” It’s attributed to James C. Collins from a book published in 2001. You may have also heard the quote, “The best is the enemy of the good,” although I hadn’t until recently. I was astonished to find out that the second quote, attributed to Voltaire, predates the first by centuries. Indeed, Shakespeare similarly wrote, “Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well,” and even Confucius (!) said, “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” So turns out this “good enough for government work” attitude toward life has been around for a while. I kind of assumed it was the product of our new, “embrace your beautiful flaws” mentality. But no…turns out maybe we’re returning to something more balanced and healthy. I’ve always tried to do more, be better, fix myself and everything around me. I’ve had a general philosophy of, “If you can be better, why wouldn’t you try to be?” It has it’s place I suppose…but maybe, perhaps, just possibly I’ve been taking it too far. Possibly I need to chill out. Probably I need to chill out. Because I’ve been chasing a phantom perfection and it’s been preventing me from seeing and doing good.

And life is good. It is well. Even with everything that’s crazy going on. Even with my life entirely up in the air. My bed is still deliciously warm and cozy and so nice to snuggle down into at night. I still have a family I love SO MUCH and who love me back so much that sometimes it literally makes me tingle. The autumn air still snaps and the leaves still change their colors and smell like heaven and become satisfyingly crunchy on the ground. The ocean still has a million different colors that change with its mood and still makes me feel tiny next to it. I can still encourage friends and talk them (or listen them) through the little crises of life. I can still pray. I can still light up someone’s day simply by looking them in the eyes and smiling to remind them that they are a delight to encounter. These things don’t depend on where I’m living or what job I have. There are some things that are constant, that government regulations and social distancing and whoever is president can’t change. I can’t have perfection, not in this lifetime at least, and it’s time to stop striving for it. Time to embrace the good. Both the good I can enjoy and the good I can do. Because good really does not have to be the enemy of great. Consistent good spread over a lifetime probably adds up to great. Or sometimes good is the pre-cursor to great. Many of the people who achieved great things actually set out to achieve good things. They started small, proved themselves faithful in little, and were unexpectedly given much. Even God Himself said,

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.”

Zechariah 4: 10 (NLT)

7 thoughts on “The Enemy of Good

  1. Hey. I liked your straight away post. Made me ponder. My novel Jonah In the Time of Kings is free on Kindle till Friday. Some say it takes them on an inspiring journey. Would be curious what you think? Gratitude, Anthony Barbera

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  2. Your recent blog reminded me of a teaching you did before you left that I have been holding in my brain as of recently. You taught on Matthew 6:25-34 and how these verses represent God’s heart for us. God is the only one that knows what he has in store for us. He knows why he directed our path and provided the talents for us to excel. As soon as I let go and rested in God the picture got clearer. I am very excited to hear about your moment of clarity! Continue being you and sharing your heart with us. We love you greatly!

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  3. Loved this Allison! What a true and honest read, it was a blessing to read as so many things you mentioned i myself have been feeling too lately! A great fresh perspective. Thankyou for sharing!
    God Bless and keep well 😊
    Jasmina

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  4. Most excellent, we are constantly becoming better in our lives as we strive towards His excellence. We have no reason for condemnation or feeling of shortcoming, Jesus Christ paid the price for all. We are the prize of his sacrifice. He has not thought we were unworthy of his sacrifice, nor does he have a thought that we were not worthy what he went through. Laugh through fear, doubt and lies and see the deliverance God has for the righteous.

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  5. You are not alone. I also feel like I have no idea what’s going on with my life even with God in the picture. But thank you for the encouraging ending. Let’s get through this crazy era.

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