Have you ever been aware of living with the little lie that you’re not quite enough?
Enough means sufficient. Sadly we pick up the impression from multiple angles of modern life that not only is there not enough, but that in some way, we’re not enough.
It’s hard to bring up children with a sense of aspiration while maintaining the truth that they’re enough, just as they are. Even nursery schools are prepped for achievement, so how do we avoid our kids getting the impression through life that they’re only loved if they’re achieving?
‘Achievement’ sounds marginally less demanding than ‘attainment’, but educationally one generally segues into the other. If you lack confidence or you’re at rock bottom and appear to be achieving/attaining precisely zero in life, do you still feel valued?
I suspect clergy suffer from this vague feeling of not being/doing enough, in varying degrees. By a kind of George Herbert reckoning (= perfect priest role model) the ordained can never quite do enough. There’s always another visit you could do, another admin task, more prayer you could engage in. You could even be better at being, for goodness sake.
There’s not enough money for schools, the NHS, social care (goes the story). There aren’t enough people in church, or priests in the C of E, and neither energy to increase the former, nor money to increase the latter.
From early school age, we’re aware of being compared and the danger of being found wanting; of not knowing enough, not having enough friends, not being sporty enough, not being popular enough.
In my 1970s primary school, this was illustrated by the year 6 spelling horseshoe. When it was time for spelling, the whole class was placed into a horseshoe shape based on previous spelling prowess, little 10 year old bodies standing around the outside of the classroom measuring each other up, those who couldn’t spell at one end, graduating to the top spellers at the other, mediocre spellers in the middle.
It couldn’t have been more obvious who wasn’t enough (everyone except the top person, and they were always fearful of tripping on the upcoming spelling challenges, as they were picked randomly from the teacher’s oh-so-adult spelling head). Literally no one was a winner, and most of us felt like losers.
As a competent speller, I fell foul of the word ‘beginning’ one week and was knocked off my precarious top position into third or even (dreadful thought) fourth. The shame of it, the resulting feeling of failure!
Education becomes an increasingly competitive arena. Even if you end up with three As, will that be enough to get you to the University you want? We’ve had A stars to address this – sooner or later someone will come up with a way to separate the A star students off from each other and some will end up feeling not enough.
In the Church, if we’re not careful with our headspace, there is not enough money for the buildings, not enough people to keep the show on the road, not enough commitment, not enough spiritual hunger.
Occasionally, into this arena, comes a strange and wonderful voice of reassurance, which I was blessed to hear this week, through the kind assessment of a good listener. Perhaps, said the voice, despite your inner demons, despite the competitive Western world mindset, which serves us all so ill, where you are now, doing what you’re doing now, you are enough.
Perhaps, in this place, right here, right now, though you may wish you’d take other paths, and though you may harbour dreams that are at present a long way off being fulfilled, in this place, right here, right now, who you are, is actually enough.
Not even ‘good enough’ because that implies some sort of moral attainment hanging over you, that you could do without.
Just you yourself, right where you are, just as you are: enough. You are just right. You are enough.