When I was working through the Twelve Step program, one of the lessons I accomplished required me to list and analyze my character flaws. One that I identified (amongst many others) was what I termed as “mediocrity”. I felt that I did not always strive for the best or give a task my 100% best effort. At the time I considered this a character defect, but as I have matured and thought about this, “mediocre” is not necessarily a bad or undesirable attribute.

The dictionary defines mediocre as: “of moderate or low quality, value, ability, or performance” But more interesting is the dictionary’s explanation of this word’s origin. The word originates from a Latin word, mediocris,  meaning “halfway up a mountain”. I like that definition, halfway up the mountain. Sometimes that is the right place to be.

Of course, we think it is a great accomplishment when we reach a mountain top experience. We applaud those who reach the top of their respective fields: the businessman who becomes CEO, the swimmer who wins many Olympic gold medals, the sailor who reaches the rank of Admiral. However, what about the people who work steady and maybe even a bit slowly, and never reach the top? Is there experience less valuable? Why don’t we applaud those in the middle of the pack?

Statistically speaking, in a normal distribution of outcomes for a group of people, the results will typically fall along a Bell curve. The most outcomes (68%) fall in the middle. Not everyone reaches the top 1%, actually very few do.

I am learning that it is quite fine to be in the middle of the pack, to be average. I don’t mind being halfway up the mountain. In many instances, it is quite beautiful. I have reached the top of several of Colorado’s 14,000 feet tall mountains. The view from the top is fantastic, however, the tops of all these mountains are devoid of trees and greenery – just big rocks at the top. However, below timberline, halfway up these mountains, the scenery is fabulous and full of life and color. In my opinion, the top of the mountain is not always best.

A blogger recently wrote about this same subject, titled What if all I want is a mediocre life? I agree with her perspective and recommend you read the full article here. Krista writes:

What if I embrace my limitations and stop railing against them? Make peace with who I am and what I need and honor your right to do the same. Accept that all I really want is a small, slow, simple life. A mediocre life. A beautiful, quiet, gentle life. I think it is enough.

If I am content where I am at and where God has placed me, and if I am then  considered “mediocre” because of it, than I can accept my situation and remain grateful. If I reach the mountaintop and yet I am not content, then there is no peace and I need to make adjustments.

I do not want to be so busy and caught up in striving to reach the mountaintops of the world (success, accomplishments, accolades, admiration, acknowledgement).  I prefer to live a slow, simple life where I can focus on close, deep, and meaningful relationships.  I will take contentment over “worldly” success any day.

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.               I Timothy 6:6-7

What do you think? How can you be most contentment with where you are right now? Is mediocrity consistent with Christian teaching and the “Protestant” work ethic?

About John Forrest