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68 | Let’s do things badly


G. K. Chesterton Credit: Wikipedia/Public Domain
68 | Let’s do things badly

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Hi my name is Dean Smith and in the podcast I want to discuss a statement that Roman Catholic author, philosopher and theologian, G. K. Chesterton, made that I believe is a key to success.

You may not know Chesterton who died in 1936, but you may have watched a popular British TV series, Father Brown, about a Catholic priest turned detective, that was based on 53 short stories written by Chesterton.

But in his book “What’s Wrong With the World”, Chesterton took a more serious look at life when he wrote:

“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

Yes, he actually said if something is worth doing, it is worth doing poorly. It is worth doing imperfectly.

And when you think of it, that statement is quite profound, because it suggests that if God wants you to do something, then you should just start doing it. If is worth doing, then according to Chesterton it is worth doing badly.

Perhaps another way of expressing this is by saying in order to succeed you must first be willing to fail.

There is another modern proverb that hints of this same idea, it states that The perfect is the enemy of good.

You see, many of us are driven by the need for perfectionism, that Mirriam Webster Dictionary defines as a “disposition to regard anything short of perfect as unacceptable.

What drives this inner need for perfectionism is the idea that people value themselves based on how well they do and how much they accomplish. Our worth as a person is wrapped up in what we do. If we fail at something, then we are a failure.

If something we do is less than perfect, then shame on you.

We personalize it. We let our mistakes and failures define us.

But giving ourselves permission to do something badly can be very freeing.

And this idea of being willing to do things badly was behind one of Christ’s parables, when the Lord suggested doing something badly is better than not doing it at all.

Found in Matthew 25:14-30, it involved a master who was going on a long journey and gave three of his servants talents to invest while the master was gone. One was given five talents, the second two talents and the last one talent.

While the first two men went out and doubled the master’s investment, the third man simply buried his one talent in the dirt and waited until his master’s return.

And when the master returned and called for an accounting, he praised the two men who doubled their investments. But when the last servant dug out the talent that he buried and returned it the master, he was outraged.

He asked the servant why he didn’t at the very least deposit the talent in the bank, so the master could have collected the interest. When it comes to investing, putting your money in a bank had the lowest rate of return.

In other words, when it comes to investing putting your talent in a bank was doing it badly.

But doing it badly was better than burying your talent in the ground and doing nothing at all, which is what the servant did.

And when we looked at the servant’s response, we see that he was emotionally controlled by his fear of failure. He told the master:

24 ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ He was fearful of failing. (Matthew 25:24-25)

  • He was scared of failure.
  • He was terrified of making a mistake. .
  • He was fearful of what others would think.
  • His greatest fear was doing it badly.

But, the man’s only true enemy was his fear. His investments may have doubled like the other two, but he would never know because fear dominated his life.

So rather than risk being judged by how he may or may not have failed, the servant chose to avoid this potential embarrassment by doing nothing. In his flawed thinking doing nothing was better than the possibility of doing it badly.

God has a plan for your life. The Lord has things for you to do.

Maybe, the Holy Spirit has been asking you to talk to someone about Jesus. Maybe God wants you to start a small Bible study. Maybe, God wants you to start a blog. Maybe, God wants you to start an online video ministry.

But you are procrastinating, finding excuse after excuse not to do it, driven by this inner fear of “What if I do it badly?”

One way of dealing with this issue is to simply accepting the fact that at times you are going to make mistakes. Everyone has moments of failure. Everyone does things badly.

The Bible does not cover up the failures of our Bible heroes. It tells us about Abraham’s unbelief and son Ishmael. It tells us about Moses’ anger when he killed a guard. It tells about King David’s adultery and how he arranged the murder of his mistress’ husband. It tells us that Peter denied Christ. It tells that the Apostle Paul participated in the murder of Stephen.

I believe God exposed their dirty laundry to show us that mistakes and failures are a part of life. You will not be perfect, but that is not an excuse to do nothing.

Successful people don’t allow their failures to define who they are and because they give themselves the freedom to do things badly, they are also giving themselves the potential to succeed. In the process, they are also giving themselves permission to learn from their mistakes and get better.

So, I am asking you to do the same. Give yourself permission to do things badly, because it may be your first timid step to accomplishing the purpose that God has for your life.

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