Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Doing Well Essay

For a bit more context, Chesterton is complaining about how the education system (1910) blindly processes girls as if they were facial-hair-impaired boys, and he digresses a bit into discussing creative/artistic play.

Here, I'll try to edit/snip/boil it down into something easier to read. Money-quote is at the very end. (Original text at )


All the educational reformers did was to ask what was being done to boys and then go and do it to girls [...] "Would you go back to the elegant early Victorian female, with ringlets and smelling-bottle, doing a little in water colors, dabbling a little in Italian, playing a little on the harp, writing in vulgar albums and painting on senseless screens? Do you prefer that?" To which I answer, "Emphatically, yes." [...]

There was a time when you and I and all of us were all very close to God; so that even now the color of a pebble (or a paint), the smell of a flower (or a firework), comes to our hearts with a kind of authority and certainty; as if they were fragments of a muddled message, or features of a forgotten face.

To pour that fiery simplicity upon the whole of life is the only real aim of education; [...] To smatter the tongues of men and angels, to dabble in the dreadful sciences, to juggle with pillars and pyramids and toss up the planets like balls, this is that inner audacity and indifference which the human soul, like a conjurer catching oranges, must keep up forever.

This is that insanely frivolous thing we call sanity. And the elegant female, drooping her ringlets over her water-colors, knew it and acted on it. She was juggling with frantic and flaming suns. She was maintaining the bold equilibrium of inferiorities which is the most mysterious of superiorities and perhaps the most unattainable. She was maintaining the prime truth of woman, the universal mother: that if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

Dr. Jamie Jenkins: Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Doing Well

April 16, 2012

"I did my best but I guess my best wasn't good enough." These words have been spoken many times by countless people. 

The rich voice of soul singer James Ingram repeats these words in the song "Just Once" that he recorded in 1981. It was his first recording, and it reached number seventeen on the pop charts.

The lyrics written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil detail the struggle of someone trying to understand why a relationship kept going sour. The question is asked, "Can't we figure out what we have been doing wrong?"
Have you ever felt that way?
Whether crafting a sermon or developing a lesson plan; running your daily delivery route or honing your athletic skills; selling a product or performing a delicate surgical procedure; writing a computer program or a school term paper; creating an architectural design or parenting children. There are times when we are not sure that our best is good enough. We have made a good effort but think maybe it could have been more. The results could have been better.
Have you ever felt that way?
There are many explanations for why we are uncomfortable with the outcome of our efforts. Whether it is a relationship or some project that we are working on, often there is the feeling that something more or something different would have produced better results.
Some folks are perfectionists. No matter how hard they work or how well they apply themselves, it will be never be "right." Others lack self confidence. They are convinced that they just don't have what it takes to get the job done. They are always certain that someone else can do it better.
Fear of failure gets in the way many times. Reluctance to try something because it "might not make it" is a deterrent. Inadequate resources or limited skills can cause one to conclude that whatever is produced is not good enough.
An old proverb suggests that all God expects is that we do the best we can with what we have, now. We may try and fail but we must try.
A one frame cartoon shows an ancient architect and a builder standing in front of their completed project. The builder says to the architect, "I skimped a little on the foundation but no one will ever know." The structure standing upright in that picture is what we now know as the "Leaning Tower of Pisa."
There is no excuse for deliberately doing less than our best. When we do, we can expect the end results to reflect the level of our efforts. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
When we have used our resources and skills to the best of our ability we can expect good results. I am not suggesting that the results will always be excellent but we should not worry about it. There may be imperfections but our goal is not to be perfect. Our goal is to do our best.
If the cause is consistent with God's character and purpose, I believe God wants us to succeed. After we have done our best, then we need to turn it over to God. Even when our "best isn't good enough," God has the ability to transform it into something special.
Abraham Lincoln said, "I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep doing so until the end." If we adopt that attitude, we have the right to ask God to "make the works of our hands last" (Psalm 90:17 CEB).

Jamie Jenkins

Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," April 16, 2012. North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.



Topic Tags

No current tags


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *