What Happened to Excellence?

What Happened to Excellence?

David W. Hegg

As I write I am sitting in a hotel room wondering whatever happened to excellence, to doing things right, and doing the right things. What happened in America to turn going the extra mile into something only fools do? And more tragically, when did getting away with something make that something legitimate?

Have you ever experienced a series of seemingly unconnected events which, taken together, illustrated an undeniable principle? When I arrived at my hotel late last night I immediately realized the desk clerk was fresh out of civility. She hardly looked me in the eye as she mumbled something about the hours for breakfast, swiped my card, and literally threw the room key on the counter in my direction. And never mind this wasn’t the Ritz. It ought to be civility and genuine concern to provide the best in customer service is job one, no matter what.  

This morning the sequence continued. The super eingespritzen espresso bar in the lobby is down for repairs (read: NO COFFEE!), the appliances in my suite are incredibly noisy, and the desk so poorly put together it squeaks with every keystroke. Argh!

But my situation is only a small illustration of a much bigger problem in our society. We have become a people whose only question is this: Can I get away with it? Can I get away with doing a poor job, leaving a mess, or creating one? Can I get away with perpetrating an outrage, obscuring the truth, or causing pain? Can I get away with a lack of integrity, a harsh outburst, or a demeaning slur? Can I get away with a criminal act, a sub-human reaction, or a selfish refusal to be inconvenienced when chivalry or heroism is demanded?

Look around and here’s what you’ll see. The soul shepherds of our society are setting the tone. Late night comedians – those bastions of advanced political savvy – insist the answer to our political dysfunction lies in vulgar, deplorable attacks masquerading as comedy … and they get away with it. Our politicians obfuscate and spin the bits of truth they allow us to hear … and they get away with it. Our pastors and theologians infuse man-made heresy into spiritual matters for selfish purposes … and they get away with it. The media consider they’re doing us a favor when they piece meal the news, infusing their bias, and tell us how to think … and we swallow it. Multi-millionaire athletes and entertainers flaunt their disregard for drug and tax laws … and they get away with it. And then there’s the worst: the espresso machine is broken and no one cares!

No, I am not advocating for tougher statutes to diminish our freedom of speech. Neither am I suggesting stricter governmental oversight. The fact is, external compulsion can never produce the results found through an internal compliance to a noble, ethical belief system that prizes honesty and excellence. Here’s the deal: We simply have to be better people!

We must stop accepting trash as truth. We must stop allowing for poor performance, and poorer excuses. We must stop laughing at vulgarity, stop blindly accepting duplicity, and sternly refuse to turn a blind eye to this rising tide of mediocrity. And we must stop aiding and abetting the erosion of ethical consistency, first in our own lives, and then in hearts and minds of our children. America will only be great as Americans understand the necessity of pursing excellence in every area of life, even those no one sees.

Now excuse me while I go in search of a coffee shop and try to regain some Saturday morning sanity.