Monday, December 25, 2006

When is it Good Enough?

There is a complicated dance between good and good enough.

We used to tell children that 'trying' was irrelevant; what mattered was 'responsibility'. Then we told our children that making an effort was enough, and that results didn't matter. Nowadays, people seem to think that even effort isn't important, and that children should be praised simply for existing.

Both effort and results are important. The effort we make is a moral responsibility. The priority we make on achieving the results is also a moral responsibility. The end results matter significantly for all but our moral sense.

If we try to feed our family, 100% effort is morally worthwhile, even if we fail. And 100% priority is a requirement of 100% effort. In the end, if our family starves, the effort and priority that we gave matters to our moral conscience. But we still take seriously the 100% importance of our success.

Teaching children that effort doesn't matter, or that results don't matter, is a crime.

On the other hand, we say that not everyone can be good at everything, no matter hard they try. Your best is not always going to be good enough. But if you fail to be a successful pop-singer, did you lack 100% effort, 100% priority, or simply 100% success?

In the real world we give lip service to the idea that not everyone is good at everything. But we chuckle when someone is good at a word game but bad at Chess, or vice versa. Or when someone loses their keys, or can't seem to dress the children in coordinated clothing. We conveniently ignore the various things that we don't do well at that time.

There are some things that we have never been able to forgive other humans for not being good at; one of these is 'being on the ball'.

We must expect no less than 100% effort and priority from every human being to not murder (barring exceptions such as right-to-die, abortion, or what have you), not rape, not steal in a harmful manner, not destroy things in a wanton manner. We expect no less than 100% effort and priority from every human being to protect their children, earn a living, respect highway laws.

The important list goes on for a long time. I wouldn't deny any of it; no less than civilization hangs on our joint compliance.

But while we don't expect 100% abilities in math, verbal, engineering, vocal, etc. - less important things - from everyone, we do expect 100% effort from everyone for other less important things - like 100% effort and cognizance, all the time.

You're not excused until you've made 100% effort. You can do anything if you'd only just put your mind to it. You're just not trying. You can't give up. You can solve this if you give it more time. You have to watch what you're doing at all times. You're not fulfilling your full potential.

We expect 100% competency in almost every non-specific discipline, even when it is perfectly obvious that no one is. Or maybe it's not so obvious? Is everyone so self-deceptive?

How many times do you think of an action as stupid? He's stupid for saying that. That was a stupid thing to do. If we all do things like this, isn't it a standard part of even a smart person? What, exactly, are we expecting?

How many times do you forget something "obvious"? How many times do you overlook something obvious, or forget to do something, or break something, carelessly? You can train yourself to get better in some things, if you give them priority; but in everything, all the time?

How easy is it to destroy twenty years of friendship with a careless slip of the tongue in the wrong place? For twenty years you thought she was fat, and if you once say it aloud, now she can't be friends with you because she knows what you "really think"? And how were you able to be friends for twenty years? A deception? Must something like "Wow! Your daughter's really developing!" spell the end of a relationship? [No, I didn't, but I almost did, once. I didn't say it to your daughter, so you can laugh; but what if I had?]

100% effort all the time, for everything, is hard. We are always so guarded, so tense. It's wearying. Sometimes, we break in a moment of confusion or inconsiderateness. Unless you are someone who makes inconsiderate into a lifestyle choice, the guard will go up again. Are we human enough to allow someone to collect themselves and move on?

When is 'good' good enough? Does it have to be 100%? All the time? Is there room for forgiveness, when we, also, might do the same thing someday, or may have done the same thing once?

Consider answering a slip - something careless, letting you down, something rude, etc.. - with tolerance. Give the other person a chance to see that you don't believe that that is the real potential of the person; that he or she is simply letting down a momentary guard.

Believe that people needs time to collect themselves. Return your words or actions as if what you heard or what happened was understandable, not something that 'no one in their right mind' would do. Assume that, together with your understanding, they will now try to fix what they did or move on. Allow them time without withdrawing love.

I wrote the following song more than ten years ago; it wants some music. Please consider it under creative commons.


Now I know I'm a decent fellow intellectually
But every time you talk you say there's something wrong with me
I'm aware that I have problems and they bother me as well
Though I think you still want me around, it's getting hard to tell

Chorus: So tell me right now that I'm your good enough man
Tell me right now that you can love me as I am
I know I've got my faults, honey, I'll fix them when I can
But tell me right now that I'm your good enough man

When you seldom say you love me but you often say what's wrong
The "love me" comes in weakly and the "wrong" comes in so strong
It may be that in your head what you feel is very clear
But my head can believe only what comes in through my ear

Everyone's got things about them that they need to change
Everyone's got pieces that need to rearrange
You may keep yours hidden and deny them, all the same
I just can't keep on running and I'm tired of this game

All of us need moments when there's nothing to decide
And all of us need times when we don't hang our heads and hide
And all of us need days without more criticizing words
When "You're good enough for me" is the only thing that's heard.


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