I was chatting with a friend the other day and she nonchalantly said the words “potential is overrated.” These words struck me. I have devoted my entire life to a ministry that helps people realize their full potential. Needless to say my ears perked up. I needed to know more.
Apparently she hears the word “potential” a lot. “That girl is really great, she has a lot of potential;” or “you should give that guy a chance he has a lot of potential.” Then she observed that most of these people did indeed have potential but all that meant was that they were not being who they could be. It sounds to me like these people need to have less potential and more actual.
When you think about it, potential doesn’t really exist. Its just a thought. Look at it like this: I am either a baker or I am not. I may be studying to become a professional baker, meaning that I am “potentially” a baker, but for today, in this moment, what I am not is a baker.
This young lady was simply observing something interesting about christians around her: Do we encourage friendships, relationships, and other facts of life based on potential? Are you potentially good at your job or are you good at it? Being good at your job is praiseworthy. Being potentially good at your job is neutral. If we start to praise what is neutral we can get into trouble. Imagine if you chose your doctor based on their potential to treat illness. Or even something far less serious, how about a car? Would you shop for a car that has the potential to run? We want an actual doctor, an actual car, an actual friend, and an actual spouse.
Don’t get me wrong, we want to see the potential in ourselves and those around us but we can’t stop there. Nor can we base important decisions off of what is not yet in someone or something. If I choose to date someone based on their potential I have sold them short and myself short. What I say with my actions is, “right now you are not good enough, one day I hope you will be.” Doesn’t sound like things are off to a real good start.
Once I see that I have a potential good (a gift, a talent, a possibility) I do myself and those around me a disservice by not actualizing it. We are gifts! Our lives were not meant to be potentially lived, but actually lived. It is only when I actually do something that it becomes real. If I live a life of potential, I choose to live a life that is not real, a life that does not exist. The facts are we ARE real, we are flesh and blood, we DO exist and so we need what is actual.
The call to be Christian is the call to realize our goodness and the goodness in those around us; the God in those around us. In order to do this it takes courage, risk, and love. We actually have what it takes. G.K Chesterton once advised, “reach for the moon and even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.”
Do you live for what is potential or for what is actual?
I have to thank my young friend for calling me on to actual holiness. She was right…
potential is overrated.