Good enough…

“Good enough for government work.” That was the constant refrain of my bosses the summer I helped build a house. My bosses were the couple who were going to live there. Easy going grandparents caught on the idea of an environmentally friendly “Earthship” made of tires. Every time they said that phrase I wanted to say “No! That’s not good enough.” But they were the ones who were going to have to live there. It was their call, so I kept my mouth shut.

More recent experiences have had me think more about what is the proper response when working for someone who is working against their own interest. Instead of those easy going grandparents I’m seeing people pleasers who want it done now so that customer can get what they want when they want it. The problem is the time constraint of “now” means abandoning doing it right. It also may mean abandoning family and health to stay at work cleaning up all the messes made by impatience.

So what is the right thing to do when meeting the bosses or the customers demands means sabotaging what they really need? I’m not advocating perfectionism. I recognize that customers will be better served with a quirky product they can use than an ideal product that always needs a few more touch ups before they can get their hands on it. But what do you do when planning is abandoned because it takes too much time? What do you do when uncomfortable truths are ignored because dealing with it would cause a project to miss a deadline and require telling customers to wait?

In 1 Samuel 25 we see an example of doing right. Nabal foolishly rebuffs David though he gave watch over his flocks and servants invoking his anger. His wife, Abigail, could have let things continue on this dangerous course, following the direction of the head of the house. But instead she intervened. She took of their possessions to pay David for his service and assuage his anger, which ultimately proved a better course. Nabal’s life was spared, save for his own fearful heart.

If I truly desire to do well in my service to others I cannot be content to go along for the ride, being conformed to the habits and systems already in place. I am not claiming this is easy. It requires wisdom to find a better way in a system actively working against doing what is best. It requires boldness as there may be conflict when that way is challenged. It requires humility as good work may be dismissed for not being done yesterday. It may require sacrifice if stubbornness is so strong that efforts to improve are seen as attacks.

The truth is every time I see things that truly hinder a project but go along with it for whatever reason I’m echo that refrain “good enough for government work.” I need a mental shift where I am only satisfied if it is good enough for God.


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April 2011
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