Thursday, March 11, 2010

Is "good enough" good enough?

Do you ever have one of those weeks where everything you read or every conversation you have seems to be about the same issue? This week was one of those for me and I can't help but think God is trying to get something through my blond head. I am doing a study through the book of Esther with some wonderfully wise women and this week, much of our study was on the issue of "perfectionism" and unrealistic personal expectations. I am currently reading, "The Blessings of a Skinned Knee," by Dr.Wendy Mogel, which deals with applying Jewish teachings in child-rearing. The last chapter I read dealt with "perfectionism" and unrealistic personal expectations.

As these concepts have been floating around my brain, I've found myself to be more and more confused about when it is appropriate to expect or strive for perfection and when it is appropriate to just be "good enough." Here is an example...

The quote from my Bible Study is this,

Perfectionism is a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as being unacceptable. I'm not suggesting we shouldn't do our best. I'm simply saying that some times just surviving certain tasks without falling apart is our best and in those times God is not ashamed of our performance. God isn't interested in our stellar performance but in our hearts.
(From Beth Moore's Esther Study, pg 112)

Now, here is a quote from The Blessing of a Skinned Knee on how children do not need the best of everything (teacher, homework assignments, friends, etc.)but that "good enough" can be all they need:

Consider that "good enough" can often be best for your child, because when life is mostly ordinary and just occasionally extraordinary, your child won't end up with expectations of herself and those around her that cant be met on the worldly plane.
(Dr. Mogel, pg 55)

My dilemma is this: When should my goal be perfection and when should my goal be "good enough?" As a young child, I was a perfectionist. My dad had to create the "one mistake a day" rule so that I would allow myself room for error. My parents were (are) very accepting and gracious when I made mistakes and in no way pressured me to feel I had to be perfect. It was an expectation I placed on myself, without anyone's help. Though my quest for perfection is nothing like it was when I was eight, I still have very high expectations of myself. Mostly because I know I am quite a capable person and so, with a little hard work and caffeine , I can usually meet my personal goals and expectations.

But what about when I can't meet my goals. What about on Monday when I have a list of 15 things to do and because Sawyer is snotty nosed and grumpy, I get (maybe) two things done. I set a personal goal by making my daily "to do" list and failed to meet my goal. In that case, I think a "good enough" sticker works. But does that mean I don't continue to have the expectation that tomorrow I can conquer my 15 point list? No. I guarantee that Tuesday morning my list will have the 13 items that didn't get done the day before plus whatever else needs to be done on Tuesday and I will expect to get it all done.

I feel like I'm not making much sense...

My question is, when is it appropriate to shift my expectation from perfection to "good enough?"


Should I always strive for perfection and be ok when I'm just "good enough?"

1 Peter 1:15 says, "But just as He who called you is Holy, so be holy in all you do." I don't know about other translations but my NIV does not read "try to be holy" or "good enough is just fine." God's expectation is that I will be holy in all I do. He would expect that of me if it were not possible, right? So often we say "nobody is perfect" and some how we understand it to mean that nobody can be perfect.

I'm not talking past mistakes and yada yada. I'm talking about getting up tomorrow morning and making it through an entire day being holy in all I do. Is that a high personal expectation? You betcha. Is it striving for perfection? I guess so.

Now I'm really confused...Any comments would be gladly welcomed.


  1. PS- Just to add to the confusion, I don't equate accomplishments with holiness...I don't know that I made that distinction very clear. Like I said, its all a bit jumbled in my head.

  2. I think to be perfect we have to have an standard of perfection (which would be Christ). I think we should encourage our children to do their very best (all for the glory of God, seeking to be obedient like Christ). If it isn't an obedience issue I think as parents we can error in being critical of anything less than what we see as perfect. For me, this means Matthew makes his bed for the glory of God to the best of Matt's ability, not mommy standards of a perfectly made bed (unless I know he can make it that well). He sits at the dinner table without toys, because Ephesians 6:1 calls him to obey his parents. He writes his (very imperfect) letters to the best of his ability. He puts his toys back in the appropriate place, because he has learned to put them back perfectly...which I suppose can confuse you even more because if he doesn't put them back right it is because he isn't obedient, not because it wasn't perfect...I guess the difference is that he knows the standard. Hope I don't confuse you :P

  3. My friend Jennifer posted this on my facebook wall and I thought her thinking was really helpful!! Thanks Jennifer!!

    "Here's how I've reconciled it(based on other wise counsel - this doesn't come from me:). The Bible tells us to do everything we do as unto the Lord, to be pleasing to Him. We also know that He is sovereign over our day. So each morning, we need to give God our Plan A for the day and offer it up to Him and begin our day with that plan(the 13 things). We should strive to do those things well and not choose to be idle. However, we need to hold Plan A loosely in case God reveals to us another plan for our day(Sawyer's runny nose).

    If we are doing all things to please the Lord, then if we only accomplish being a good mommy to our sick baby, that's ok. If on the day that our baby was sick, we just ignored him so that we would be able to check off our 13 things, we would not be pleasing to Him. Where we go wrong is when we get our priorities out of order - God, husband, children, homemaking, out of home ministry. As first born, perfectionist women, we are prone to make the homemaking and/or outside ministry the priority instead of our husbands and children because, well, it's hard to check a box and feel "done" with those roles - they are just always there. So we need to remember our priorities. I also have to force myself to sometimes just schedule in days for making memories. Now that I have a 10 year old I see how quickly time is going, and it's true that there will always be housework and a to do list to accomplish, but your little guy will only be little once and then those moments are gone."

  4. Beth- I think your totally right on. I think the "realistic" expectation concept towards Sawyer will be something I will have to work on throughout his life. Making sure I am expecting his obedience to the best of his ability rather then any other level will be important. Thanks for sharing!! I love to glean wisdom from mommies who know so much more than I!!!

  5. "I still have very high expectations of myself. Mostly because I know I am quite a capable person and so, with a little hard work and caffeine , I can usually meet my personal goals and expectations."

    I can relate to this myself. I am not so much a perfectionist as someone who can do many things quickly, and most of them well. So I place a high burden on myself to produce and succeed. Your '15 things on the to-do list' resonated with me that way. For me it's an issue of making an idol of productivity. My god becomes my own efficiency and capability - rather, ultimately, than doing things for the glory of God. I blogged about this one here: (in case that is of help/interest to you)...

    Sounds like a season of a lot of growth and learning for you these days. Way to embrace it. You go girl!