What’s Worth Doing Badly?

Are you all ready for another week?! I start school this week, so I am a mix of excitement and nerves…

Since school and new activities are on everyone’s minds, I thought it appropriate to encourage you all with an interesting quote by Christian author G.K. Chesterton. I hope it causes you to think!

Sometimes we decide to just give up if we aren't "the best" at whatever we are doing. But, the most important things in life require perseverance, and a willingness to work through failures!


Which side are you on?

Last year in school, I remember coming to class and first thing in the morning, my tutor presented this quote. She asked all of us to pick a side; did we agree with it or disagree? It took us a while to figure out what we thought about it because it is such an interesting quote. I remember saying I agreed with the quote and trying to invent reasons why I agreed. This quote has resonated with me ever since. Now, I’m sharing it with you all!

There really are two sides to this quote.

On one hand, you can disagree. Doing anything “badly” can never be a good thing; especially doing an important thing badly! Besides, how we do something is often the judge of what we do. I mean, if I’m bad at soccer, I’m probably going to try something different, since soccer isn’t my gifting. Repeatedly performing poorly in a hobby like soccer probably isn’t the best choice – especially if you didn’t enjoy it.

On the same thread, someone could also view this quote as encouraging people not to do their best. Some people interpret Chesterton to be urging them to just give up and perform poorly.

But, I’d have to say that I disagree with both of these theories. Here’s my take on it, and why this quote can encourage you in the difficult areas of life.

Something worth doing

What’s really worth doing, even if you aren’t good at it?

The important things in life.

Notice the quote one more time,

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

-G.K. Chesterton

It doesn’t say everything is worth doing badly; it says “a thing worth doing.” Now, you might be wondering: what’s a thing worth doing? Knowing a little about Chesterton myself, I think that he means something more important than optional hobbies. I think he means those things in life that you just have to do – even though you might be the worst at it in the beginning.

Notice how I said, “in the beginning”? I believe that Chesterton did NOT mean it is good to be “bad” at something forever. Instead, his quote begs the addition of the word “temporarily”. It isn’t ok to give up trying and to be content with mediocre. BUT,  it IS ok to work through temporary “badness” (if that’s a word…) to later achieve your best!

The first example that comes to my mind is Christianity. That is a goal that many of us would deem as “a thing worth doing” (hopefully!). Thus, according to Chesterton, it is a thing worth doing badly. Christianity, being so important, isn’t something that you can just “drop out of” if you don’t succeed at it. No! It requires patience, perseverance, and persistence to work through your mistakes and fumbles, hoping to achieve the prize at the end. You can’t just give up if you aren’t good at Christianity – Christianity is a truth and a lifestyle, and, no matter what, requires your determination and Christ’s power to finish the race!

My application

But, I’d like you guys to see how this quote applies to more than Christianity – so, I will provide you all with a personal example. As you probably know from this post, I DO NOT like learning to drive. It has literally been a struggle, complete with some of those mistakes and fumbles I mentioned earlier. Needless to say, It’s been very frustrating and discouraging.

But, being in a rather large family, driving is important. I will definitely need that skill in the future, so I have deemed it a “thing worth doing” – which means that even though I might not be the best at it right now, it deserves my determination to conquer it. I will have to work through my dislike and failures because I know that anything worth achieving, is also worth the effort. What is it that people say? “No pain, no gain”!

Obviously, I am not comparing driving with Christianity in importance. However, what I am saying is that there are many things that we deem as important and worth our time; but are we really willing to put in the effort and time to achieve them? Are we willing to work despite our failures and temporary “badness” to receive the end prize?

This concept of perseverance is not just from Chesterton. The Bible and its authors frequently mention it as a key virtue in life. Perhaps because of the recent Olympics, this verse comes to mind:

…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith.

-Hebrews 12:1-2

Now it’s time to consider your life. What’s so important that it’s worth doing badly? What areas of your life deserve your perseverance and persistence? Consider that this week, but also consider that Christ has the power to help you through anything you are struggling with – if only you ask Him!

Have a wonderful week!









2 thoughts on “What’s Worth Doing Badly?

  1. I Remember being on the fence about this quote last year. At first I thought I disagreed with it because like you mentioned, I shouldn’t keep doing something if I continually fail at it. However, after our discussion in class I realized I really did agree with what Chesterton was saying that if it was something worthy that was really important to me it was worth temporarily being bad at it in order to succeed in the future.

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