James’s Blog: When Perfection is the Enemy of Good.

One of the soundbites that I picked up when I was in leadership was ‘A bad decision is better than no decision’. I struggled with this because I didn’t like making bad decisions. I was always much happier if I had all the time in the world to weigh up all the options and eventually come up with the perfect decision, a decision designed to solve the problem whilst inconveniencing or upsetting as few people as possible. In general, my natural state is to be paralysed by indecision.

Over time I began to understand that the advice was sound. The wrong decision was better than no decision. Withering on the vine was worse than moving forward and making a mistake. Doing nothing was, in my case, about fear, and that’s no good.  It was kind of a paradigm shift for me, and I’m still wrestling with and reflecting on the consequences.

During this struggle, I began to notice how easy it was to find people who would not get involved in something unless it was perfect. An idea might be proposed, which was good but flawed, and then someone who would reject the project on the basis of its flaws but follow this up by then doing nothing but acting like they had the moral high ground. Strange. Christians, with our various passions, theological preferences and hobby horses, seem particularly prone to this.

What I’ve come to realise is that there is no good deed, no charity, no well-meaning policy that is free from imperfection, but that cannot be used as a justification to do nothing. It’s OK to  have a problem with whatever project or work that we have a problem with. It’s OK that we don’t want to support it. It’s OK, but we must make sure that we’re doing something good in some other way, and meeting needs through some other venture, because otherwise when it comes down to a choice between those who do good imperfectly, and those who sit on their hands, we all know very well which side God is on.

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