When Excellence Turns Bad

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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"Excellent choice!"

That's what the waiter says of Mrs. Griffin's breakfast order. The waiter would be me. My wife is arthritic and appreciates a nice breakfast.

The restaurant is the Blue Hen, located somewhere in our modest kitchen. On the table are two preposterous, self-satisfied, ceramic hens the color of blue. No doubt they lay blue eggs.

On the wall over the table hangs a framed blue menu, which describes The Blue Hen as a Bed & Breakfast. The offerings are substantial and varied: eggs, fruits and cereals, muffins and pastries, a variety of spreads. No jam or jelly will be served before it's warmed. And beverages are drunk from Oscar Wilde cups bearing the words, "Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast."

So, no matter what madam orders for her jentacular pleasure, I say, "Excellent choice!"

Yes, there's excellence of sorts in the Blue Hen. It's quiet and casual. My breakfast efforts won't be recognized by a Nobel laurel, Olympic medal, Templeton prize; nor by an Oscar or Tony for lifetime achievement.

There's yet another sort of excellence abroad today; it's flashy and it's phoney. Corporate superiors and their surrogates urge inferiors to work longer and harder, not that the inferiors may enjoy the higher quality of their own work, not that the inferiors may have a greater share in the profits, but that the corporation or church, company or country, may take the work of others and apply it to a corporate entity. Such CEOs then parade around complaining that the country has lost its idea of excellence.

My own personal experience with corporate excellence has been catastrophic. In both the religious life and the corporate life, there were moments in which I relied on the wisdom of my superiors; in both instances, they worked me to the point of burnout.

Just for the record, when I work, I give 200 percent. Nowadays when somebody asks me to double my output on the grounds of increasing my excellence, I see red flags flying. Too often, such people just want to increase their own excellence through my work.

Next time you're encouraged by a superior to strive for excellence or perfection, think twice before answering. Consider your own spiritual and physical welfare before accepting an invitation to work from someone who says he or she has your spiritual and physical well-being at heart. Most importantly, talk the whole thing over with the Lord.

Some signs to look for.

  • If the superior will work with you or spend the same time at extra work as you do, that's a good sign.
  • If the superior works 24/7 and calls you in the middle of the night, that's not a good sign.
  • If the superior is dining out while you're working late, or playing golf on weekends while you're working at the office, that's a bad sign.
  • If you can't find out what the superior is doing while you're working around the clock, that's a very bad sign indeed.
  • If you say no to your superior's extraordinary request to work more time, and your superior doesn't respect your dignity to say no but proceeds to berate you and shame you into submission, that's psychological blackmail.
  • If, in a Christian situation, your superior quotes scriptures, especially submission scriptures, until you say yes, that's spiritual blackmail, and that's about as bad as it gets.
  • Just say no whenever it's appropriate; the Lord will understand and love you for it. After all, he's the one you're really working for.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Col. 3:23-24)