Progress, Not Perfection
July 18, 2006, 5:21 am
Filed under: uncategorized


Back when I was doing a grad school counseling internship at a Salvation Army drug and alcohol rehab, there was a saying going around (popularized by AA)- “Progress, Not Perfection.” This reminded the person in recovery that attitudes, emotions, cravings, relationships, and situations don’t get resolved over night. Often the person who is waking up out of a drug/alcohol induced haze after being in it for years is frustrated that they aren’t getting their whole life back together all at once. Oh well – to use another AA phrase, that’s just “life on life’s terms.”

Given that I’m coming up on my one year anniversary at my current job, I’ve been in reflection mode – evaluating how well I’ve done, how poorly I’ve done, and what’s left to be done. Oh, that last section is a long one. I’m one of those people who is his/her own worst critic, so this process tends to produce a bit of angst and mild depression in me. And yet, at the end of the day, I have to realize that of the challenges I was faced with, I did a decent job. Much room for improvement, mind you, but I made some progress. So why do I keep feeling so stinking inadequate for not getting everything done? That’s just what it’s like to be me.

It reminded me of a little experience Michelle and I shared a few years ago at an “emerging church” event. One of the leaders of the event spoke of an experience they had on the way to the event that morning. They stopped at a convenience store to pick up a couple things for the day, and ran into a homeless man they knew from having worked with him in the past. They took a few minutes to talk and give encouragement, and even bought the guy a cup of coffee before leaving. But on the way to the event, this person felt guilty about it, because the coffee had been served in a styrofoam cup, and that’s bad for the environment. Michelle and I chuckled about it later because this person missed the point – they did a good thing out of a good heart – would it really have been better to withhold hospitality and generosity in the name of Jesus because it wasn’t environmentally sustainable?

So take your pick of some issue that gets you all fired up. Some ideal you hold about the way things are and the way they ought to be. Then ask yourself what progress would look like. Ask yourself if some progress would be better than none.

Most of the time progress is unsatisfying when compared with perfection. Alas, that’s almost always how life works.


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