Friday, June 29, 2007

Perfect, the Enemy of Good

I've often heard the phrase, "Good is the enemy of best." I think it's true at times. How often do we settle for "good enough"? How often do we allow ourselves to be distracted by legitimate things and end up missing what's more important? A lot of times, it isn't sin or evil that weighs us down or trips us up. It's things that are innocuous in and of themselves, good and healthy things that can be beneficial to us when kept in perspective and used wisely. We just focus too much on them, letting them become the enemy of what's best--what's eternal--what truly matters.

However, twice this week I've heard the opposite phrase: "The perfect is the enemy of the good." And it's got me thinking. I first heard it at the Get Rich Slowly blog, accompanied by an all-too-familiar illustrative story. The author went on to explain:

You can come up with all sorts of reasons to put off establishing an emergency fund, to put off cutting up your credit cards, to put off starting a retirement account. Stop it. Stop making excuses. Your best choice is to start now. Who cares if you don’t find the best interest rate? Who cares if you don’t find the best mutual fund? You’ve found some good ones, right? Pick one. Get in the game. Just start. Starting plays a larger role in your success than any other factor.

The perfect is the enemy of the good. When you spend so much time looking for the “best” choice that you never actually do anything, you are sabotaging yourself.

I've been mulling it over ever since (though not in a personal finance sense as described here). Then I saw the exact same phrase on another blog just this morning. And I think it exactly captures one way I commonly struggle.

I've often used two negative p-words to describe myself: I'm a perfectionist, and also a procrastinator. In college I was fascinated to discover that the two are actually closely related. Perfectionists tend to procrastinate because they have an acute fear of failure. They are afraid to try at all, because what if it doesn't come out perfectly? In other words, they let perfect become the enemy of good.

It's easy for me to spend too much time researching, preparing, gathering information--never actually getting to the project itself. It's the same reason I'm so incredibly indecisive--I can't bear the thought of not making the perfect choice.

I'm learning that only One is perfect. I am called to imitate Him, but ultimately, I can't. So I must learn to rest in His grace, knowing that the perfect obedience of Christ covers my imperfection--in little things like unwise consumer choices, and in big things like the sin that separates me from God.


Dinahsoar said...

A few years ago at a Weight Watchers meeting a member shared a saying her grandmother taught her:

Good, better, best.
Never let it rest.
Until good is better.
And better is best.

I thought to myself what a load of guilt. Thankfully I finally realized after years of being a perfectionist that sometimes good is good enough.

sara jean said...

Thank you for reminding me to think about and pray through this. This really came at a time when God is speaking to me about living to glorifying Him the best I can.

Anonymous said...

Wow.....what a new perspective for me. I call myself a reformed-perfectionist......althought I'm still a huge procrastinator and what you've written makes perfect sense to me and I think I just learned something about myself tonight thru your blog! Thanks for writing!

By the way, I found your blog thru someone else's.....can't remember the exact path anymore. I always enjoy my visits & will be back!