Good is the Enemy of Great

It is true. In my life as a parent. In my life as an employee. In my life as a Christian and a friend and community member.

And it is utterly evident that good is the enemy of great in my marriage.

Jim Collins wasn’t talking about marriage when he coined this compelling truth, rather he was speaking to a business audience in his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t. I read the book many years ago, years when I thought I had a good marriage. Years when having a good marriage was okay by me, and I passed over any chance to work on great because there were lots of other things in my life to attend to…like kids…and current happenings…and laundry…and what was for dinner that night.

I didn’t even have eyes to see that my marriage wasn’t really even good.

Close up of womans eye

It was good enough for the moment to hang on. It was good enough to make it through that next period of time when I vaguely, in the back of my mind, thought I’d pay it some attention. It was good enough to get through the next holiday or birthday or graduation.

But it wasn’t really even that good.

Now that I have great…and I mean really, really, great…in marriage, I can remember and see and feel from my gut how a not-great marriage is not good, and mine was not good. I can see now that when two are meant to become one they either are that. Or they are not. And if they are not, it certainly isn’t great, and we may tell ourselves it is good, but it falls well short of even good. We spend time jockeying for okay, and filling spaces that shouldn’t be, and convincing ourselves that the alone feeling we know is deep in our soul isn’t really there. That days or weeks or months of no sex are just because we are busy with the children and that snappy discussions in the kitchen over who forgot to make the coffee are just because we are tired. That long stretches of silence in the car or at the table at a restaurant are just  because we are preoccupied and not sharing our fears of finances or illness or growing older are because that is really love, right? Not burdening our partner.


No, that isn’t good, but it is how so many of us live day-in, day-out, in our marriages. Telling ourselves we don’t need, or want, gentle touches and soft words and intimate glances across the room and feet entwined under the sheets.

We found great in our marriage. It is indescribable. It launches both of us every day to do our best. To be our best and to care for others. To lead well from a place of servanthood. It compels us to kindness and generosity. Great marriage lived out has resulted in a relentless pursuit of intimacy and passion. Of joy. Every day.

Great doesn’t just happen, and now that we have learned the path…we are dedicated to it, together. One step and then the next and so on…

Boy and girl walking hand in hand, reaching the end of the forest.