I often think of work on a scale, with lazy on one end and diligent on the other.
I like this perspective because I don’t need to hit a certain spot. I just need to head a certain direction. It’s like a high jump competition: High is good, but higher is better. It’s not rocket science. It’s just grunt work.
Unfortunately for me, most work doesn’t actually work this way, and this realization is very important.
The truth is good work looks more like a sweet spot, sitting comfortably between underdoing and overdoing.
I tend to be an all-or-nothing person. “All” means go for it, no holds barred. But if good work is more like hitting a sweet spot and less like clearing a high jump, then “all” can be as dangerous and “nothing.”
Does that make sense?
Let me give you an example. Let’s talk about watering a plant. Watering a plant is good. You might be tempted to think of a scale where “dry” is on one side and “watered” is on the other, but that would be a big mistake. It would be a mistake because the truth is you can over-water a plant. The truth is somewhere between dry and over-watered is well-watered.
I know this all sounds silly, but this paradigm shift is incredibly important.
Take parenting for an instance. The apostle Paul says to raise children with the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Sounds good. But if you neglect the sweet spot paradigm, you’re in for trouble.
If you think binary, with undisciplined and uninstructed on one end and disciplined and instructed on the other, you’re headed for disaster. You’ll think if some strictness is good, more strictness is better. You’ll think if having a few family devotions is good, having more family devotions is better.
But what if parenting is more about finding the sweet spot? What if parenting is about just enough and not too much? Well, turns out it is.
Paul tells parents not to exacerbate their children. Apparently, you can go too far. Think about that for a minute: You can over-parent. We often grumble at under-parenting, but what about those who over-parent?
Now, I don’t mean to pick on parenting. This lesson also extends to any number of other situations. You can work too much. You can over-plan. You can talk too much. You can be too quiet, and so forth. All of these things can be good, but never as absolutes.
So what’s my point? I have three:
- Embrace the mess. Life is far more complicated than we sometimes care to admit. It’s not black or white. There’s a whole lot of gray. And in fact, this gray, which we typically consider a bad thing, is often where the sweet spot sits.
- Good enough is often enough. Stopping is often as virtuous as starting. Think about that.
- Lean into the Spirit. Because life is so gray, we need the Holy Spirit far more than we need a “how-to” plan.
What do you think? Feel free to comment.