There are different ways to look at life. One saying goes: “The good is the enemy of the best.” Meaning, that we sometimes settle for second best when we should aim higher. This statement is not without its place, for excellence is something for which to strive.
And yet, there is another saying that goes: “The Best is the enemy of the good.” For it sometimes happens that, in striving for the perfect thing, we miss the truly good in other things. Frankly this world is in a fallen state, and less the fully perfect. Likewise you and I are incomplete, unfinished, imperfect. Yet this does not mean that we lack anything good, or that this imperfect world has nothing to offer.
I suppose that, being more than midway through my expected life, I have moved from the perfectionist world of the first saying to the contented world of the second saying, though both have their place. But I have come to learn that contentedness is a very great gift, and that true perfection waits till heaven.
There is yet another saying that goes: “Unrealistic expectations are premeditated resentments.” For it frequently happens that many, having an insistence that life should be a peach, are resentful to discover that, even a peach has a pit. And expecting everything to be just peachy is a sure-fire recipe for resentment, discouragement and depression.
I think this is one problem with marriage today. Despite our current tendency to be cynical regarding just about everything, I have noticed that many still have very high ideals about marriage: that it will be romantic, joyful, fulfilling, and that love will solve every problem.
But this not realistic. Marriage is life. And life has ups and downs, things we like, and things we wish were different. There is no perfect spouse, and there is no perfect marriage. There are many good marriages that are far from perfect. Many decent spouses who do not live or act perfectly.
And when one enters a marriage with high expectations, they may be tempted to seize on the negative things, and magnify them, because they are not perfect, and resentments begin to build. And its sad really, but the marriage may not actually be that bad, and the less than ideal spouse not really so awful.
But the best becomes the enemy of the good, and decent things are trampled underfoot in an illusive search for the perfect, the best, the ideal.
Indeed, there is yet another saying that goes: “Many people want their marriage to be ideal, and if there is any ordeal, they want a new deal.”
We do a lot of this, discarding the good in an illusive search for the best or the perfect. There is always a better parish, a better Church, a better job, a better boss, a better house, a better car, a better neighborhood, a better deal.
But there is something about being able to accept the good, even the imperfect, and to be content with it. There’s something freeing and serene about not letting the best become the enemy of the good. The perfect will come, but probably not before heaven. In the meantime the good will suffice. And sometimes we don’t see it as good until we accept that the best and the perfect will have to wait.
And all this occurred to me as I watched this video about a “man” who creates a work of art. And he loves it. But then notices an imperfection and goes on a reckless errand to make it perfect. In the end he learns to love what is. To some extent this has been my journey, and I pray yours too.