The other day I was talking to a young man whom I taught back some time ago.

He was at a crossroads. He had recently graduated from college and started a well-paying job. But he wasn’t happy.  He felt like he was settling.

The money was good, but money isn’t a factor for him.

He wanted something that he wanted to do for the rest of his life. So, he is heading out to work at a National Park. He knows it is a significant pay cut.

But he was wise with his money and holds no debt. Maybe the NPS is where he will stay, maybe it isn’t, but the adventure will be worth it. He is still searching for something beyond mediocrity.

I have been thinking about this for some time. We settle for mediocrity.

We settle because mediocrity is comfortable.

If we are willing to make the Faustian trade of comfort for mediocrity, for a while it will be okay, but if we have even a little bit of a soul, it won’t be enough. We settle for mediocrity if it pays well. We will settle if most people do.

In talking with this young man, he remembered a part of my story–how as a young man, I was restless in my dead-end career and felt unfulfilled and out of place.

All the money and power in the world couldn’t motivate me to spend the rest of my life living in mediocrity.

The core of my mediocrity was spiritual; my agnosticism was spiritual mediocrity. 

It demanded nothing of me, fueled bad habits, but left me cold. I remember how I felt in those days and I shudder.  I thank God that some fire lit in my soul and made me stop trying to fill that God-sized hole with earthly stuff.

Settling, though, is easy even if it is unfulfilling. We do it our lives and our corporate lives as well. I see this a lot as a pastor — people settling with mediocrity even if it starves them spiritually.

Parishes will do just enough to remain open, but slowly die on the path of least resistance (which is what mediocrity is) until they fade away.

The rallying cry of the chronic mediocre is, “We have always done it that way.”

Yeah, and that’s why we are where we are.

To shake mediocrity requires a leap of faith. It does for this young man; it did for me. It does for a parish. It involves risks.  It involves the potential of failure and setbacks as we try to find our way.

Another word for mediocrity is lukewarmness.

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus compares lukewarmness to a vile taste which he spits out of His mouth. I would imagine the taste to be like that of warmish rancid food. Utterly revolting.

Mediocrity and lukewarmness are a slow, suicidal death for those who adhere to it.

Mediocrity of faith is death. Period.

So push out of mediocrity, not because you’ll succeed, but because you are willing to break free.

God will give us the grace to bust out of those shackles of mediocrity. We won’t be able to do it on our own. What I want to do as a pastor is shatter any and all mediocrity and lukewarmness. It is the enemy.

I am already seeing some of the payoff as we grow and get rid of the chains of mediocrity.

Christ didn’t do what He did for us so we could be a lifeless corpse floating downstream. No. We may not succeed at everything, and that’s okay. Better to try and fail than to never try.

This article originally appeared on Facebook.

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[See also: I Was Agnostic, Now I’m a Catholic Priest – Don’t Let Pride Keep You From Confession]

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