"The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist."
~ French poet Charles Baudelaire/The Usual Suspects (1995)
I usually take both with a grain of salt, but am really more cautious of the latter, the careless compliment. There is nothing quite like performing really good ritual work, be it the regular business of the Lodge, exemplification in the school of instruction, or doing degree work for a candidate. You know it when it happens and usually, so does does everyone else in the room. But many Lodges aren't accustomed to exemplary ritual work. Let's be honest - it takes time, effort, focus, and practice - things that are becoming less common in this fast-paced world. What I believe we encounter more often than not, are Brothers who do good work, comfortably accept the accolades of those who are grateful of their efforts, and then quit trying to improve. This is where the trouble begins.
There is an old saying: "Good is the enemy of great." Think about that. How can "good" and "great" be problematic for anyone? Well, they can, particularly when "good" becomes "good enough," and that's sufficient for you, your candidates, and your Members. Don't let yourself be fooled into accepting something less than great, simply because it takes less effort to prepare or maintain. It's much too easy to become lax in your work by convincing yourself that being good will do the trick. Think this line of reasoning stops with ritual? Guess again. Ignoring problems in your Lodge, much like ignoring flaws in your ritual, doesn't make them go away. Making issues "somebody else's problems" just isn't a solution.
So, does this mean we all turn to nitpicking each other's efforts from the sidelines? Nope. I suggest encouraging one another to keep improving, striving for excellence, and aiming to be great - not just good. Apply this theory to everything you do: ritual, membership retention, community service, even challenging yourselves to pursue the Grand Master's Award. Much like sterling silver, your work will inevitably lose its luster and become dull over time if you do not make the effort to constantly polish and give it the care and attention it requires. Keeping your Lodge together and running smoothly isn't always easy, but it is inevitably rewarding. It's the same with excellence - good enough may work, but is it really what you want to be known for?
In the movie A League of Their Own, Geena Davis portrays an all-star baseball player who decides to quit her team right before the championship playoffs. Her reasoning? As she tells her coach, Tom Hanks, "It just got too hard." Hanks stares right back at her and unflinchingly responds: "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great." Don't you trade great for good. You're better than that and you deserve the things that greatness brings, whether you're at home, at work, or right there in your own Lodge. No fooling.