Every schoolboy and girl know what “average” means. In grades on report cards, average is a “C.” How do you make a “C?” Several different ways: you can make all “C’s,” you can make an equal number of “B’s” and “D’s,” or you can make an equal number of “A’s” and “F’s.” And of course we all remember the brainiacs who screwed up the “curve” in class by making a perfect score on a test. I even went through several years in elementary school in which they did away with letter grades and replaced them with “Superior,” “Excellent,” “Needs Improvement,” and “Unsatisfactory.” The meaning of all are obvious, and they were represented on report cards as “S,” “E,” “N,” and “U.” There were a lot of weekends messed up for a lot of students because of “D’s,” “F’s,” “N’s,” and “U’s.”
Psychologists are quick to point out some obvious problems with using these types of grading systems. The problems all stem around the perception of students, parents, and even teachers of the students that are graded. Obviously in some families “C’s” and “D’s” are acceptable as were the “E’s,” because they were not failing grades. Other families accepted nothing less than “A’s,” “B’s,” S’s,” and “E’s.” Average or below average grades were unacceptable, but not to ALL.
In our nation today we are experiencing on many levels the results of the culture of Average being acceptable: in politics, education, business, personal relationships, families, and even in religion. But doing so results in issues that create a ripple effect of problems. Accepting average requires accepting failure as being OK. How so?
Many kids I went to school with would slack off during a semester — especially the early part of a semester — because they knew if they failed a few tests they could make those grades up late in the semester by making a few “A’s.” Of course in doing that they had to accept making one or two failing grades. In my family if one of us was an average student that person was expected to make a bunch of “C’s.” “F”s” were never acceptable; failure at any level was not an option. And if one of us was capable of making straight “A’s,” nothing less was acceptable.
When I finished college and went into the business world, very shortly afterwards I entered management. My views on work ethic and work results for the employees I managed paralleled my past regarding performance expectations in the classroom. After all, if everyone had grown up in an environment of expectation of excellence, why change and accept less than excellence at work? Unfortunately that attitude was not shared by everyone. Therefore everyone did not adopt and live by the same work ethic. And it is not just in work: in marriages, relationships with children, friends, even with siblings and other family members. And as the calendar months change along with the years, it has become more and more commonplace to accept Average as all right. But in doing so there are obvious pitfalls.
One is as we become accustomed to accepting average in our everyday lives, the level of achievement begins to slide. We begin to expect less from ourselves and others, and in doing so we receive less in the level of results. Average begins to slide. Human nature steps in and across the board in Society in school, work, religion, relationships — in every part of our lives — we see the quality of results declining.
So if everyone is doing it — achieving the same or similar results — does the decline in results really matter? Of course they do! Everyone wants the best in everything in their lives. Everyone can look around at those in their lives and they will always see some others who have better things: better jobs, better relationships, more money, nicer jobs and homes. In the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, we all knew when we saw those folks and we wanted in our lives what they had, there were ways to get those things. But all those “ways” were costly — everything good comes with a price. Remember that Scripture we talked about previously from Genesis 8? “What goes around comes around,” “you get out of life what you put into life,” “you reap what you sow.” All are different versions of the same principle: the way to get something is to work for it.
In America today we are living in the middle of the massive deterioration of that fundamental principle. Everyone wants something. Fewer and fewer are willing to work for what they want. And one of the products of that unwillingness to work hard is an expectation of getting something without working for it: an attitude of entitlement — “Somebody owes me something.” We see it played out everyday in politics. Different political factions tout different philosophies that usually contain different versions of the Entitlement phenomenon, like “Every American deserves healthcare.” What that is really saying is “Every American deserves healthcare that someone else pays for.” That’s an entitlement attitude. There are far too many other examples of this to go into here. But you know what the meaning is.
In summary, here is the largest problem about accepting average as OK, — especially with the level of what average is continually slipping lower and lower — average will NEVER be any higher than it is today. This generation knows only what is average in their lives today. They have no example or teaching of the principle (or its results in the past) from their teachers, professors, employers (on the most part), and news programs to lead them in any other way. So where it is today is probably as good as it gets. You can comparatively look at other societies around the World and compare economic and social environments with that of the U.S. and see the differences today in the lives of citizens there as compared to here. That comes from the attitude of work ethic in all things within those societies. Life levels will always be a direct result of a society’s perception of achievement. And the measure of achievement that all draw from is……Average. Is Average their accepted end result or is it simply a mark they want to better?
Is there anything we can do? How many people do you know and interface with on a regular basis? The only way to right this ship is to look within our individual circles of influence — our children, our friends, our employees and employers, our fellow church members, our brothers and sisters, etc. — and live an example for them. Examples? Stop lying in front of our children. What….you don’t lie to your children? Let’s see: a bill collector calls. Your wife answers the phone and you whisper across the room, “Tell him I’m not here.” And she does. Your son or daughter see and hear that. It’s a lie and you have justified it to them. Your justification? “It really wasn’t a lie because I was not standing right where Mom was holding the phone so in actuality I really was ‘not right here.'” The big picture in that scenario is this: you just told your kids lying is OK. What and how have you taught your family to respond in their lives to that question? That sets the standard for that one thing for the generations of people who live with you.
Wow! That seems like an impossible task. But its’ simply this: “anything worth having is worth working for.” We get out of something exactly what we put into it. Are we going to simply gripe about Washington, our not getting a raise at work, the price of gasoline, how much weight we’ve gained, the dishes stay in the sink far too long without being washed, the laundry keeps piling up, and that list goes on and on. DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT….AND RAISE THE DEFINITION OF AVERAGE IN YOUR LIFE!!!!
“If not us…Who? If not now…When?”