‘It just goes to show that anything is possible’ said one Olympic commentator to another as they remarked on yet another Team GB Gold. ‘Really?’ I thought to myself. Do they really mean that a slender 40 something clergyman with a rather sedentary lifestyle could, with sufficient dedication and a £43 million training budget, become a gold medallist at Tae-Kwon-Do? There must be limits.
Yet our culture constantly tells us to ‘follow our dreams’ and ‘we can do anything if we try hard enough’. From children’s films to business self-help books, the consistent message comes across that greatness is just within reach, that our inherent specialness only need be released for us to achieve amazing things.
This may seem fairly harmless, after all it is good to have a vision and pursue it with dedication, and who knows what we might capable of until we try? Yet we also need to be humble and realistic. Apparently psychologists are receiving increasing numbers of calls from people who are distressed because they’re not exceptional. It nags at them constantly because they have not achieved the dream. These people aren’t catastrophic failures – far from it, many would be described as successful by those around them – yet because they’re not excelling they feel they have failed.
By definition we cannot all be exceptional. Furthermore those who are exceptional in a particular area may be under par in others or have made massive sacrifices to get there.
Fascinatingly there has been a backlash, and articles about the joy of mediocrity are springing up across the internet. They argue that people shouldn’t aim to be mediocre what they do, but where necessary accept it and find value in quality of life, family and just being. I can’t see mediocrity as a concept catching on though.
The Christian faith has a particular perspective. One which argues that each one of us is special because we are infinitely valuable to God. Our worth and identity does not lie in being exceptional compared to everyone else, but in being a unique and loved child of God. Only you can do what you do – only Annabelle’s mum can be her mother; while there may be many medium managers in Tesco, only Tony has that role in such and such a place and with particular people. More profoundly, God created you so that you could be yourself in relationship with him, beginning now and lasting to eternity. Each one of us has a unique call and is wonderful in God’s sight.