Good enough?


“Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien." - the perfect is the enemy of the good. Recent news seems to confirm Voltaire's fear that, unless something is perfect, it is useless. So we get moral outrage whipped up against organisations and individuals who have provided outstanding service to others because of the actions of a tiny minority.

The past actions of some Oxfam workers in Haiti, and perhaps elsewhere, are deeply shocking, but they do not mean that Oxfam's incredible legacy of humanitarianism is somehow worth nothing. Ask the countless thousands of children, women and men around the world who are alive and well because of Oxfam and the selflessness of their workers.

From the EU to the NHS to Obama, good work cannot (and should not) be undone by a failure to do everything, or the actions of a few. It's worth remembering that Lent is a time when we are forced to acknowledge our own frailty and vulnerability. That we are dust and our future is dust is a wake up call to those of us with grandiose ideas of legacy and a reminder that our value does not lie in our ambitions or outputs.

Being limited is the glory of the human condition, not its downfall. Perfectionism is what ultimately destroys us and even the good work we have done. I have lived with depression long enough now to begin to appreciate the beauty of boundaries that offer me protection, not obstruction. That I can only do something, rather than the everything I want to, means that, if I choose, I can do it very well. An ability to detox from perfectionism and embrace the 'good enough' offers a way to healthy living for individuals and communities. If we are able to rejoice in what can be done and not beat ourselves up for what was never going to be accomplished, perhaps we begin to dismantle damaging, unrealistic expectations.

The work to tackle extremely bad behaviour has already begun within Oxfam, but still donations have dropped and support has been withdrawn. (On that note, I don't see the same famous actors withdrawing their support from Hollywood or deciding to give up on the film industry and the huge pay cheques for future starring roles.) This is the counsel of perfectionism that does not allow for any mistakes and refuses to make space for change.

The message of Lent is to resist this way as ultimately destructive of us all, and instead look for the 'good enough'. To expect less than perfection offers better accountability in the end and spurs all of us to achieve the best that we can. Because the message of Lent, in the end, is that we are all good enough.

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