COLUMN: When good enough is no longer good enough

Published 2:51 pm Friday, February 9, 2024

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In my home city of Atlanta, the joke is that if you need a new mattress or ladder, don’t go and pay retail. Just drive one of the many Interstate highways there and you’ll find what you need. The emergency lanes are littered with mattresses and ladders.

How do they get there? Because as some people are tying them down to haul them home from a store, they evidently reach a moment where they get tired and say, “That’ll be good enough.” Except it isn’t.

The meteorologist reminds the television audience a deep freeze is coming that night. “Be sure to leave the faucets dripping in order to avoid bursted pipes,” he or she says. But you are already settled into bed and covered up. 

“I’ve got the heat cranked up pretty good. The house is warm. That’ll be good enough.” Maybe it will be. Maybe it won’t. You know what’s riding on whether good enough really is good enough. 

You have a dollar bill in your pocket and just enough money otherwise to pay your restaurant bill. However based on the ticket, your tip should actually be five dollars. “I’ll leave the dollar. That’ll be good enough.” No. No it won’t, when you could use your credit card and leave the server and crew a proportionate tip. 

Sometimes, good enough truly isn’t good enough. Jim Collins in his bestselling book titled “Good to Great” made a similar point. He said that good was the enemy of great. But I would contend that good enough keeps us from even reaching the level of good sometimes. 

We see this in a million different ways. Someone is cleaning out the attic. “What about this old broken down bicycle? And the space heater that stopped working?” one family member calls out. “Donate them to the church!” advises another. No. Don’t donate it to the church. If it’s not good enough for you, it’s not good enough. Period. 

I wrote last week about Jonah’s story in the Bible. In Chapter 3, after being saved from the fish and having his call renewed by God, Jonah still went to Nineveh and did the very least he could get by with. 

Jonah had been sent to save a city’s collective life. Instead, he offered them five Hebrew words that translate, “Forty days and Nineveh will be no more!” Evidently, Jonah thought that was good enough. 

Why we can find ourselves occasionally (or habitually) trying to get by with less than good effort, none of us truly know. Some are more prone to this than others. Most of us have an inner voice that tries to warn us when we are about to cut a corner. 

The Bible has something to say about all of this. Actually, a couple of things. First, Jesus famously says in Matthew 7: 12, “Do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” We know this by its moniker, The Golden Rule. If you would want something better than mediocre, then offering mediocre is arguably an ethical problem. 

Then, slightly out of context, we also hear this in 2 Timothy 2:15. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

Why does any of this matter? Because offering our best to others is ultimately the best and fairest way to treat each other. It’s also smarter business. 

I monitor a couple of the social media pages that purport to give people a platform to discuss or update what’s happening in and around Franklin. Much of what is on there, candidly, is misinformed or underinformed. As one city official said, “I don’t participate on there but I do monitor it just to know what people are saying.” That’s my stance. 

However, not all of the content on there is out of bounds. There is a lot of frustration, for instance, about how some of our retail and food establishments are run. That’s not their imagination. Sometimes I drive away and shake my head. “They must think that’s good enough.” 

As always, the finger can point back at me. Is everything I am responsible for being done as it should be? Instinctively, I know the answer is no. Contrary to the uninformed, Franklin is slowly growing. The newcomers, by and large, are fairly affluent based on housing prices lately. Will good enough still be good enough?

Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.