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March 29, 2013

Excellence or Faithfulness?

In our book Help for Women Under Stress, Nanci and I share about a friend named “Andrea,” who lamented to us that “Too many people have a piece of me. I can’t give them what I don’t have, and I just don’t have anything left.”

Andrea was experiencing job saturation. She was totally devoted to motherhood, the church, social action, and every good cause imaginable. In her case it stemmed from unrealistic expectations. Andrea was the type of woman who could be told, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and would respond, “That’s because I wasn’t in charge of the project.”

We assured Andrea she didn’t have to try to be what she wasn’t—the fourth member of the trinity or vice-president in charge of the galaxy. She didn’t have to save the whole world because that was Jesus’ job, not hers. Her family would still love her even if she didn’t win a Nobel Prize this year.

Many people say to themselves, “I must do everything well.” For women, the implication of this belief is often that they must be the world’s best mother, a gourmet cook, the perfect hostess, have a spotless home, and be a ravishing beauty queen. Realistically this is just not possible. If you know someone who seems to be all these things, she’s probably going to counseling, saying, “I can’t take it anymore.”

We have a confession to make—we’re sick and tired of hearing so much about the importance of excellence in all things. While we’re all for excellence, and all of us should strive for it in some areas, it is impossible for any of us to be excellent in everything. Pretending we can be or should be just sets us up for the crash—and a whole lot of stress.

SkatesI’m not a great biker, and never will be, but that doesn’t mean I have no business biking. I am a poor ice skater, but I still went ice skating with our family and had a blast (the fact that I was so bad was half the fun). Like you, Nanci and I can each do a few things with excellence, but it would lay an unbearable weight on us if we thought we had to be excellent in everything.

Christ has called us not to excellence in all things but to faithfulness in all things. “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). Every man I know would much rather be married to a faithful woman who’s a fair cook, a competent housekeeper, a good mom, and a decent wife than a woman whose devotion to excellence in all things leaves her strung-out, uptight, and intolerant of herself and her family.

So while you’re doing a few excellent things today, relax and do some strictly average ones, maybe even a few below average. In fact, why don’t you find something you do poorly, and do it with gusto. It will do your heart good!

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