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February 16th, 2007


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09:53 am - "Great" Vs. "Good"
"[I fear] a cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them, until all chance of doing great deeds is gone, beyond recall or desire."


In the hearts of most human beings, there is a desire to rise above the crowd. To be the best at something, to use everything we have, everything we are, to become almost superhuman. A hero. A genius. An award-winner.

Many of us lose that as we grow older, abandoning it as the dull tragedies of life press us down. Forgetting that we ever desired more than we could get; that we ever wanted to be more than who we are.

Some of us hold onto that desire, using it as a bitter shield against the dangers of mediocrity. We walk through life desperately afraid that despite our best efforts, we will never be more than we are. Never do great deeds; never discover something new; never change the world, much less save it.

We want to be someone great.

That's not a bad thing, I don't think. But it can make a life hard, scary, full of hidden despair.

And there is an alternative.

It doesn't speak as directly to this human desire for excellence and respect, but I think it stems from the same source, and eventually it fills the same need, if we can lay hold of it.

Every moment is a choice. Every action we take, or choose not to take, alters the world around us. Alters us, as well. From something as tiny as looking up at the sky to notice the clouds rushing by, to something as painful as confronting a loved one, to something as huge as allowing yourself to be killed rather than deny your God. From flossing to giving someone a hug, from making sure you're home on time to choosing which TV channel you turn on at the end of the day.

These choices aren't all equal in terms of their effects, but they all affect us. Each one goes into defining who we are at this moment.

We can't live in the future, or the past. The one is being made right now, as we reach out and act, or as we hold ourselves back. The other is unalterable; all we can do is choose how we react to it, whether it will rule us.

All we have is the choice we're making right this second. I'm making a choice to type this out for you all to read. I chose to get up and come to work today. I'm choosing to type this on work time, which is not such a great choice, maybe. :-)

If we make a habit of choosing what it right over what is easy, we become those choices. They're often unnoticed and unseen, but God sees them, and sometimes our loved ones see the effects. They (and God) smile, and call us "good."

I want to be clear: I don't mean "good" as in "good, but not great." I mean these two things in opposition: "good" is the quality in a man or woman of making right choices, loving, helping, being. "Great" is the quality in a man or woman of making choices to excel and rise to the top.

They're very nearly the same, but I think I would prefer to be "good." One can be great without being good, though goodness can also lead to greatness. I would prefer to live a life rich with choosing God, with choosing love, with choosing trust and hope and sharing, with choosing excellence but not being ruled by the desire for it.

I'd rather hear "you're a good woman," than "you're a great woman." Goodness can be lonely, but greatness can be gilt over a bottomless emptiness.


"I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun, and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren."

[ETA: er, for my fellow LOST fans, this set of musings was brought to you by Desmond Hume. *g*]
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

(17 lit candles | Light a candle)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:whitemartyr
Date:February 17th, 2007 12:52 am (UTC)
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Oh my friend. This is lovely and I feel it. I hear it. I know it's true. I know it too.

It's interesting how much, strangely (or not?) this stuff has come into my brain via Doctor Who. The show rises up in me this fervent desire to be more, to be good and fully myself as a storyteller and as Kimberley.

It is quite a journey this, life, isn't it?

*hugs* You are quite something, my friend.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:February 17th, 2007 01:09 am (UTC)
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Thank you--I'm glad it was clear enough. :-)

And would it embarrass you if I told you that part of this post came out of getting that card from you? (Along with Doctor Who, and God, and LOST, and my new ministry position, and, and....)
[User Picture]
From:tomh1138
Date:February 17th, 2007 01:52 am (UTC)
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Yeah, that was a really good read. I was thinking similar things after LOST on Wednesday as well.

It's hard sometimes coming to a crummy job where one feels that no one has any respect for you. But what if--just what if--doing that seemingly mediocre job, i.e. pushing the button--ends up being the most important thing that you ever do in your life?

It's a lot to think about, for sure.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:February 18th, 2007 06:29 pm (UTC)
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I think the moment of the most abrupt contrast between "great" and "good" I got from Desmond was at the end. He knows he can't ultimately save Charlie, his "great" call doesn't extend that far, doesn't allow for it...but despite that, he has to try. And because he tries, he's put off death for Charlie at least twice so far.

Penny called him a good man. That's exactly what he is, in making choices like that.

(lovely icon, btw!)
[User Picture]
From:whitemartyr
Date:February 17th, 2007 01:57 am (UTC)
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Not embarassed. Touched, actually. I'm glad I can inspire such things and such love. *beams*

*attttaaack hugs!*

*tumble*

oof.

Sorry.

heeheehee.

[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:February 17th, 2007 05:40 pm (UTC)
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You're welcome, then. :-)

And OOOF!

Hee. I'm loved! *hugs back*

(I miss you. Plan that road trip.)
[User Picture]
From:kerravonsen
Date:February 17th, 2007 11:41 am (UTC)
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Yes.

I can't help be reminded of the bit in "The Great Divorce" where they come across the lady who is great in Heaven, who, when she was on Earth, wasn't considered important at all by worldly standards.

Yet at the same time, I also every now and then get the nagging feeling that I ought to be trying to be "great", not for my own aggrandizement, but that I ought to be trying to achieve "great things". That I'll never be "good enough". That I will have "wasted" my life...

Being quietly faithful doesn't necessarily give one a lot of feedback that one is achieving anything worthwhile...
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:February 17th, 2007 05:44 pm (UTC)
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Yet at the same time, I also every now and then get the nagging feeling that I ought to be trying to be "great", not for my own aggrandizement, but that I ought to be trying to achieve "great things". That I'll never be "good enough". That I will have "wasted" my life...

Oh, goodness, me too. All the time. In fact...it wasn't until I reread this after I posted it that I realized that my point of view has really shifted. I've always been one who strives for excellence, and wanted desperately to do great things, to NOT waste my life.

After writing this, I noticed that I actually do believe it...which is quite a turn from what I've always felt in my heart. Healthy, I think, but I hadn't realized there'd been such a change.
[User Picture]
From:superversive
Date:February 17th, 2007 09:19 pm (UTC)
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I know the feeling exactly.

I suppose I’ve always felt (and still feel) that I have to be great, because being good isn’t an option. By this I do not mean that I cannot be good; I mean that I don’t find it meritorious to be good. It is merely a necessary minimum, and God knows I often fall short even of that. Saints earn merit not by their goodness, but by the greatness of their goodness, if you follow me; and I am not remotely in their class. Nobody hands out diplomas for graduating kindergarten.
[User Picture]
From:kerravonsen
Date:February 17th, 2007 09:47 pm (UTC)
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But remember that "he that is faithful in little is faithful also in much"; we can only be faithful in the NOW, because NOW is the only time when we can act.
[User Picture]
From:superversive
Date:February 17th, 2007 09:54 pm (UTC)
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At present I feel more like the servant with the one talent. And that is not a comforting thought.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:February 18th, 2007 06:09 pm (UTC)
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I suppose I’ve always felt (and still feel) that I have to be great, because being good isn’t an option. By this I do not mean that I cannot be good; I mean that I don’t find it meritorious to be good. It is merely a necessary minimum

"So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.' "

I know; that's been very much my viewpoint as well, for a long time. And as far as weaning us off of pride, and restoring us to humility, that viewpoint is amazingly helpful.

Saints earn merit not by their goodness, but by the greatness of their goodness, if you follow me

I do, I believe, but still--one cannot acchieve greatness in goodness without beginning with simple goodness. In other words, I think I still stand by what I posted, because goodness is the foundation and fullness of a life built on Christ. True greatness comes, or should come, atop that. Not aside from it.

Nobody hands out diplomas for graduating kindergarten.

Interesting that you should use this metaphor. I have been having many conversations with God lately about my love for Him and His love for His children.... No, nobody objective hands out diplomas for graduating kindergarten. But a Father might do something similar. He never lets us get away with complacency, with hiding and not striving to be more and more like Him; but I've come to realize that He also rejoices over every step we take towards that likeness. Just like a father teaching his child to walk. The child falls, and the father picks her up and praises the effort, and sets her on her feet to try again. He rejoices in every step, in every little greater strength.

I still want to be great. That hunger will never leave, I don't think. But I want even more to know the satisfaction of being good, of walking well in my Father's eyes. When I know that, then maybe I'll be ready to find greatness, or nurture it more in others.
[User Picture]
From:superversive
Date:February 18th, 2007 06:44 pm (UTC)
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Thank you. That was very well put, and very helpful.
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From:scionofgrace
Date:February 18th, 2007 02:37 am (UTC)
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Yes. Excellent.

I find myself using the word "good" more sparingly than "great." "Great" can be flashy or entertaining or wild or whatever, but "good" means solid, true to the core, beneficial, edifying. In the end, "good" lasts longer than "great."

God called his creation "good." That means a lot.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:February 18th, 2007 06:14 pm (UTC)
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"good" means solid, true to the core, beneficial, edifying. In the end, "good" lasts longer than "great

Yes. Exactly what you said. Gosh darn it, I say something and you usually manage to rephrase it even better. :-) Thank God for putting you on my flist
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From:kalquessa
Date:February 20th, 2007 07:52 pm (UTC)
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Excellent post, and your timing is perhaps better than you know, since Lent starts tomorrow, and this is a perfect subject for consideration during the Lenten season.

(Oh, and thank you for making that connection with Eowyn, that just makes the piece even better.)
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:February 20th, 2007 08:44 pm (UTC)
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I really hadn't thought about this being a very Lenten topic, but I guess it kind of it, isn't it? :-)

thank you for making that connection with Eowyn, that just makes the piece even better.

It sort of made itself. I put in the first quote as the header, because that's the most familiar phrasing of the desire for greatness that I know, the most intimate to me. And then at the end I realized that her quote of revelation (if you will) suited choice/longing to make those choices for goodness instead.

Why don't I have an Eowyn icon?

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