The Good-Enough Samaritan/The Good-Enough Mom

At a women’s theology conference this winter, one of the speakers, Laura Brenneman, spoke about the “good-enough Samaritan.” I was immediately taken by this slight twist in interpreting an old story. And we must remember that it was just a story, told by the master storyteller, Jesus. So many times preachers or speakers parse and dice the story as if the Samaritan, the priest, and the Levite were all real people. Based on real people and scenarios I’m sure, but, in the end, just a story. If you haven’t read it recently, it is found in Luke 10:25-37.

While it is important to do your best, at times we should accept just being “good enough.”

Laura noted that the Samaritan in the story (we even use that name as a stand-alone thing to refer to anyone doing a good deed for another, and we have a law named for it) behaved honorably and mercifully in rescuing a stranger of another race. But Jesus does not tell the story in such a way that the Samaritan gives his all or changes his long-range plans to stay and nurse the stranger back to health. The Samaritan is shown leaving the man in an innkeeper’s care. He paid someone else to take care of the man (which undoubtedly is going the extra mile, but still he didn’t feel he had to do it himself). Laura brought that out to illustrate how neither do we need to feel like we need to do everything all the time for everyone else, in spite of stories held up like this illustrating exemplary action.

As a woman and a mother, I needed to hear that. We’ve heard, likely, of the “good-enough mother.” That’s about laying off of the guilt we all feel at times as we go about our roles and work. While it is important to do your best, at times we should accept just being “good enough.” And while we all want perfect children, the perfect church, and the perfect spouse—sometimes we need to be more mindful and grateful for the “good-enough husband” or the “good-enough wife” or the “good-enough pastor.”

As parents, we want to be there for our children—but sometimes we have to accept that we can leave our children in someone else’s care—and pay them—and go on our way without feeling horrible guilt.

As children of adult and aging parents, we want to be there for our parents—but sometimes we have to accept that we can leave them in someone else’s care—and pay them—and go on our way without feeling horrible guilt.

As a mother or father, you may like to have a decently clean house with good meals for your family—but perhaps you decide you can get someone else to provide the cleaning and meals—and pay them—and not feel guilty. Or occasionally use hired help for the same. You get the idea.

Obviously, some parents need to pay way more attention to their kids than they do, and I know nursing homes are too full of elderly parents who no one comes (or only rarely comes) to see. I’m not talking about these kinds of folks. I’m speaking of all those who are giving 100 percent and feel they need to give 120.

In our spiritual lives as well, there is a paradox between the grace and acceptance that we receive from God—God looks at us as beloved children and loves us for who we are—and the need and desire to grow into better and more perfect people.

Anna Quindlen, a favorite author of many who has written many fiction and nonfiction books was asked in an interview by Pillar Guzman at the Momfilter blog about juggling her career and her family. I loved some of her answers

Takeout is a godsend, and neatness is overrated. So are meetings, most office meetings are busywork and should be outlawed. You get twice as much from someone who is permitted to work at home. But you don’t get much done at home unless your kids are in school or you have a sitter at least part-time. When in doubt, choose the kids. There will be plenty of time later to choose the work. And, by the way, I have never been asked about balance by a guy, only by women. Guys still believe they will balance work and family by getting married. That’s got to change. But I wish I had been better able to combine that with letting things go a little bit. Nobody really needs a bath every night. Nobody really needs a balanced meal for every meal.

This sounds to me like someone who has learned that you can be a “good-enough mother” (or father) and go easier on yourself.

What do you think?

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Posted 4/24/2014 7:00:00 AM

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