Good Enough: On the Lie of Worthlessness

by | Feb 27, 2012 | Blogs

Photo by Avard Woolaer at Flickr

Some of us are just really good at what we do. Check out this guy.

God ain’t too shabby in His work either. Don’t believe me? Take a look here.

But many of us—and I’ll speak for myself—feel pretty inadequate most of the time.

The real problem is the secret belief that I’m actually really good… just not good enough.

It’s not that I’m bad, it’s the creeping worry that I’m not what I could be, or worse, what I should be. I see other people doing great things. I see friends married and making babies. I see writers naming God in ways I only dream of. I see musicians making millions with the three chords I learned to play while stoned in a garage in high school. I see people who are just incredibly good looking. And then I see myself, a small fish in this sea of goodness, and I realize that I’m not enough.

Compare and despair, they say, and they’re probably right. When we compare we fool ourselves into the belief that some are worth more and others are worth less.

This feeling of worthlessness definitely ain’t from God; you can tell because it usually spirals out of control and if God is God he’s got a lock on things and there is nothing out of God’s control. But it is hard to realize that the good is greater than us. This realization can leave us feeling pretty useless.  Sometimes we just feel trapped, absolutely un-free (and, when it gets really bad, we feel alone, utterly and hopelessly alone).

Mary Oliver is a good companion in this moment. She knows the place. In the opening lines of her poem, “Wild Geese“, she assures me:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

She reminds me that I actually am inadequate, but that it’s nothing to apologize for because I don’t have to be good. She invites me simply to allow my hard-headed hard-heartedness to soften and let itself love and be loved. But most importantly, almost as an afterthought, she reminds me to share. To remember that I’m not alone.

When I lose courage I watch things like this and then I realize that I don’t have to be good — the dude in that video is a miserable dancer! So am I!  It’s cool!

And I don’t have to be alone in it either, because we’re not meant to do this alone.

And this simple truth completes me.  I am exactly who God made me to be and no matter where I go, no matter how far I roam, I’m never alone. That’s enough for me.


Brendan Busse, SJ   /   All posts by Brendan