A Matter of Excellence

I had the unfortunate experience last week of watching someone display a complete lack of basic regard. While this phenomenon happens not infrequently, this particular incident weighed heavily upon me.

A trainee at work was reading a book and playing on his phone during an opportunity for learning involving other people, including a patient. I approached the student indicating that if he needed to study and was unable to pay attention, he did not need to be in this particular situation, but his supervisor defended him. After pardoning the student’s poor behavior, the supervisor reproved me for getting involved (those of you who know me cannot be surprised in the least that I did so).

This experience disturbed me for several reasons. First, the privilege of learning clearly eluded the trainee, and, second, his supervisor condoned this deficient behavior.  In addition, other staff mentioned that students do this, “all the time.”

Is disrespect so widely accepted?

I listened to a Joel Olsteen sermon once in which he preached on the importance of practicing excellence, even when no one is looking. The gist of the message emphasized that everything we do counts, down to the smallest and simplest act. Making sure to return office products borrowed at work, bending down to retrieve the piece of garbage that missed the wastebasket, admitting a mistake… all of these things are matters of excellence.

Who you are is what you do when no one is looking.

The occurrence last week mentally traumatized me because all of the inappropriate conduct occurred when people were watching. How do these individuals behave when alone, when no one is present to hold them accountable? Were their behaviors designed to show off and not really a reflection of who they are? This stumps me.

Is there a right way to be? Are we called to better ourselves? To be our best? The Bible gives us guidance:

  • Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. (Daniel 6:3 ESV)

Daniel was a prophet who worked in an elevated administrative position for Darius the Mede. His strong work ethic resulted in him flourishing under the king. Daniel refused to disobey his religious beliefs even in the face of persecution. He excelled in rank beyond those around him.

  • Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men (Colossians 3:23)

Bosses exist for most of us, and we highly seek their approval. However, working as though our efforts are seen by God is a form of worship and homage to the Creator who bestowed these blessings upon us. This beats any human approval. We should present ourselves as “Christ” to others at work and labor from a place of goodwill and not merely obligation. 

  • Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity (Titus 2:7)

Titus learned under the tutelage of Paul, and the book of Titus consists of guidelines and encouragement for those who teach within the church. Our lives should outline a pattern of our beliefs, and our example should speak in place of our words. 

  • Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

Timothy also studied alongside Paul who coached him to walk a straight line in the teaching of truth. We focus not only on our tasks but on turning others towards Godly work as well. 

  • In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

We are called to be salt and light, to bear witness to God’s presence. What we do and how we do it matters immensely in the statement we make with our lives. The work we do should point people to Christ while giving glory to God and not ourselves. The manner in which we work should cultivate praise for God.

I challenge you to think through every decision that you make (your actions, the words you choose, and your thoughts) and hold yourself accountable. Set a goal for the highest level of excellence.

I’m far from perfect and fall short all the time, but if I’m not even trying to be the best that I can be what hope is there?

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