The Enemy of the Good

I’m a serious practitioner.  Some would say I’m a perfectionist.  Now, that application can be good, and it can be bad.  Largely in the eyes of beholders, onlookers will view strivings for absolutism as overbearing whereas the concerned will see it as the way things ought to be.  Both viewpoints prove true with exceptions.  Even those with perfectionist tendencies, however, do not extend these traits into every area of endeavor.

It’s hard to make a rule with no room for variance.  As a believer in absolutes, there can be some difficulty in discerning between the immutable and the mobile.  Certain truth is of fixed nature and some of principle which requires application.  In addition, all truth is God’s truth (ask the Reformers about that), but all truth is not of the same order.  It may be a life-quest to find the sacred ground.  Moses stumbled on it, but, if you get to holy ground, you will need to plan. Human efforts at achieving heavenly goals often disappoint.

At times, we are faced with opposing truths.  Such dilemmas do not exist in the mind of God, but those of us with lesser intellect struggle to know when, how or if to give.  As even our best human efforts are tainted, it follows that strivings at righteousness are, likewise, filthy rags.  We have mental, emotional and spiritual failings as we attempt to apply God’s standards to ourselves and the world in which we live and follow imperfectly the path laid before our feet.

Truth is at once clear and confusing, aspirational and unattainable.  While a life not attempting the ultimate good is unsatisfactory, it is also true that no one ever gets it quite right.  In the golfing movie, Tin Cup, Kevin Costner’s character said, “Perfection is unattainable.”  Christ-followers keep this in mind as they live in repentant modes while doing the best they can.  With this in mind, we face daunting challenges.

So it is we learn to live with less than the best.  This is both grief and the object of grace.  It is difficult to accept lesser than desired in yourself and not seem to defend deficiencies.  However, it is necessary.  A politician once remarked to another regarding a candidate, “But he’s not the best.”  His fellow replied, “When have we ever elected the best?”  Likewise, giving an effort is better than none expended if the ultimate goal is not reached.

There is frustration in dreaming the impossible dream, but it is true that our goals must often exceed our grasp to be worth the striving.  It is difficult to accept gains which fail of the prize, but we all learn to do just that in many areas.  Self-criticism (and other types) can go to the extreme if care is not exercised.  The plateaus we reach do not lack value because there are mountains beyond.  The good we achieve should not be viewed as failure though its inadequacies be undeniable in light of perfection.  We must learn to be satisfied with doing our best, or we become enemies to ourselves.

Sterl

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