Being Good Enough
Tue 24 March 2015
We live in a world that seems to value measurable outcomes. Target setting, achievable goals and quantifiable success can all be very helpful in certain fields of work. Yet, many of us spend much of our time engaged in areas of activity that do not fit into this kind of language. We may feel exhausted in giving out to others but unsure of whether what we do really makes a difference. We may feel that we are running around keeping the plates spinning getting little credit for keeping things going but plenty of blame for when things go wrong.
If we are engaged in caring for others, in building up communities and in Christian ministry, in the widest sense of that word, how do we evaluate success? Is there a danger that in looking for measurable outcomes we might miss the ways God works through the incidentals and the intangible nature of what we are doing? Sometimes employing the wrong criteria of success can actually undermine the strengths and abilities of those who are being good enough.
The concept of ‘good enough’ is borrowed from Winnicott’s work on mothering. It offers a different language for reflecting on what is needed from those of us who are caring for and serving others. In my work I have enjoyed finding maternal imagery from the Bible and the tradition that can offer us rich metaphors for developing a confident affirmation of caring as a primary aspect of living out God’s love for the world. Playing with these ideas and metaphors can encourage a capacity to re-energise those of us who feel drained from giving out. Looking at these metaphors can help us think of other metaphors to enrich our language in ways that help us to speak meaningfully about the important things we do.
For Winnicott the best mother was a Good Enough one, perfection is both impossible and unhelpful.
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