“I think I’m doing better… Things are better than they were… I’m doing better than I deserve.” What do you hear in each of these phrases? Obviously they lack context, but even if you know the person speaking these words it is not always clear how to interpret their meaning.

Better can have (at least) two meanings:

  1. Further from “bad” than last measure
  2. The middle mark between “good” and “best”
'Better' can have at least two meanings. In counseling, it's important to know the differences. Click To Tweet

This creates a problem. If we get comfortable saying we’re doing better (further from “bad”) without actually pursuing what is good, then we begin to believe that we have already achieved “good,” and it’s not working, so we quit because it’s not “worth it.”

Think about the married couple who argue frequently and their marriage is stale. They try to do “better” by not arguing (which for them may only mean not talking). But they make no effort toward what is “good” (showing genuine interest in one another). After a period of doing “better,” they still feel like roommates and begin to think that their marriage is no longer worth the effort.

Or, consider the person who is languishing in self-pity. They try to do “better” by distracting their attention through some form of mindless entertainment (still focused upon self, but for pleasure rather than disdain). But they make no effort towards what is “good” (treasuring Christ as the answer to their failure and loving others as a replacement for self-focus). After a period of time, loneliness and boredom return, and it is assumed that resisting depressive self-pity didn’t work.

When confronted with the fact that their life is “less than good” they become defensive. “Can’t you see that I was trying? I was doing “better” for a while, but I just couldn’t keep it up. It’s too hard.”

What happened? The general pattern is this:

(a) an individual is unwilling to pursue what God calls good,

(b) that individual settles for lesser dysfunction as “better” (definition #1)

(c) short-term relief is experienced which allows for a confusion with definition #2,

(d) that individual returns to his/her sin or dysfunction feeling justified by his/her faux-effort

(e) that individual, when called to pursue what God calls “good,” considers it idealistic or harsh

In light of this reflection consider the following quote from C.S. Lewis:

“I find a good many people have been bothered by what I said in the previous chapter about Our Lord’s words, ‘Be ye perfect.’ Some people seem to think this means ‘Unless you are perfect, I will not help you;’ and as we cannot be perfect, then, if He meant that, our position is hopeless. But I do not think He did mean that. I think He meant “The only help I will give is help to become perfect. You may want something less: but I will give you nothing less (p. 201).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

For a devotional on this quote visit www.bradhambrick.com/lewisonperfect

If this post was beneficial for you, then consider reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Character” post which address other facets of this subject.