Why We Are Afraid To Improve

Ask anyone if they want to improve and they will usually reply with a resounding "yes!" So, why is it that we continue doing things the same way, and getting the same results? What are we afraid of?

We all know that "if we keep doing what we're doing, we'll usually keep getting what we've got." The best predictor of future success is past performance, and if nothing changes, we'll stay at the same level we currently occupy. But so often we're afraid to improve. What is holding us back?

Here are a few thoughts:

) We are quite comfortable in our present situation and don't see the need to expend more thought or energy to get better: This is a common plague among us, especially in the church. We are quite pleased that God accepts us as we are, in Christ. We find the idea of security and rest in Jesus quite satisfying. But, sadly, it can also make us so very complacent, even lazy. 

There are quite a few lazy Christians. They are lazy in their jobs, lazy in their relationships, and lazy in their spiritual disciplines. They think things are fine, and see no reason to go deeper, strive harder, or intentionally try to improve themselves in areas of their lives. They are content with relationships that are less than the best, confident that their current level of spiritual maturity is "good enough" and generally think their are doing find. Their areas of personal sin aren't wretched, or as bad as others they know, and besides, God is in the business of forgiveness!

But the truth is, a lax attitude toward the realities of the spiritual battle can lead to our defeat in crucial areas. As is true for every living thing, growth isn't merely optional, it is essential. We grow or we wither. We improve or we erode. Don't let comfort lead to spiritual atrophy. By the time you realize it, it may be too late.

2) We think the desire to improve means we've been wrong: Here's the deal: You don't have to say 'I was wrong' in order to say 'I want to get better.'" We wrongly think that if we started to get out of our laziness and seek some improvement that it will be an admission of laziness. Well, sometimes it is, but so what? There are many reasons to get better, and whatever they are, they're good. 

But it is also true that good can always become better. Even great can become greater. Well done can become even better. Now, don't for a minute think I don't believe in being content. I do. I just don't think we should even nest down in contentment to the place where it becomes complacency. 


Years ago a colleague of mine in the corporate world asked me "David, what do you want to be in 5 years?"  I answered immediately with a word that even surprised me in its simplicity: "Better. I want to be better." That has always been my goal. A week ago that same colleague - now the Headmaster at the Kansas School of the Blind - sent me the most precious letter telling me that one of his students had recently competed and scored very high in the international Braille Institute's Braille Challenge. As a first grader she attained the highest score of all the competitors, grades 1-12! The letter explained that for the past two years she has answered her Headmaster's question on what she wants to be with one word: "Better!"

Never stop trying to better yourself. Improvement need not be an admission that you've been doing poorly. It isn't a sign that you've recognized your error. It is a character trait that simply says "I've not yet given my best efforts nor achieved my best results, and the God who created me for his glory deserves them both."

2) We think the pain of change and improvement is too great: Sometimes we have been wrong, and terribly so. But even knowing this, and feeling the pain our sin and selfishness have brought, we still too often refuse to do what it takes to improve our lives.

I have counseled with many folks who decide that the pain they are now experiencing in broken relationships, addictions, and other results of poor decisions has become manageable, while the expected pain of change seems too intense. And they may be right! Dr. Chuck Swindoll has said "The roots of bitterness and sin are so deep that too often deep hurting will preceded deep healing."

But this is really short-sighted. The fact is, the pain of sin and it selfish choices has a debilitating effect. It numbs the life even as it erodes the soul incrementally, and removes all sense of joy and purpose. 

So, don't ever become comfortable with the pain of poor choices, or poor performance, or selfish living. To do so is to sign the death warrant on your own well-being. And besides, what God calls you to down the road of obedience may indeed call upon you to endure some of the pain associated with breaking sinful habits and fleeing harmful relationships. But this will pale in comparison to the joy and health of living faithfully under the smile of your Savior. 

So, come on! Let's do better. Let's decide, once and for all, that "good enough is never good enough". Our gracious Savior Jesus Christ deserves our very best, all the time, so that whatever we do, in word or action, will reflect well on the God who has called us make his glory known.