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The Best Things

by | Jan 2, 2008 | Authentic Living | 38 comments

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“Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.”–Voltaire’s Dictionnaire Philosophique (1764)

Literally translated as “The best is the enemy of good.”

I have read many interpretations of what this saying means. Many of which make sense (not striving for unattainable perfection or being content with what is good in our life–great thoughts). The way I interpret it is a bit different, but it is food for thought as I am contemplating my new year.

So often in life we are doing good things. Wonderful things! Fun things. Important things. But in being distracted by the good, we miss out on what are really the BEST things. The enemy of what is best for us in our life or schedule is often something really good. That is what makes juggling our life and day so difficult. We know what is really bad for us, those things are usually pretty obvious, but can we discern between the good and the best? Do I need to say no to some of the good stuff in order to have time for the best?

Edited to add: I am thinking, for one example, BEST would be to spend time with my husband in the evening. There are lots of GOOD things I do all day that often make me too tired, distracted or busy in the evening to spend time with him. This is where I think I could grow in the year 2008. Not filling up my days with so many GOOD things (friends, work that I love, cleaning, volunteering, creating, blogging) that I miss out on the BEST things. Not perfection, but things I treasure the most. There are good things in life and best things in life. The best ones for me are often neglected in a sea of good things.

Just thinking.

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Images via Architectural Digest from the book: Private Views: Inside the World’s Greatest Homes


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    When I was young good meant perfect…and I tried to make everything perfect and missed the special moment. I read recently that perfect actually means finished. And since I will never be finished with anything really, I stopped trying to make things perfect and got satisfied with simple. Right now simple is good enough. Thanks for making me think about what good is…for instance I think you blog is wonderfully good all the time.
    Blessings, Karen

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    Love this post, very, very good ‘food for thought’!

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    Melissa, Thank you again and again! Such good food for thought!

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    While everyone reaches for the good in life, don’t forget to appreciate the journey along the way. I don’t know, sometimes I think we forget about that part.

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    Hmm. Now that is something to think about!

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    I wonder if it means that the best (wine, for instance) can spoil you for (plain, ordinary) good (wine)?

    Great post…

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    How true, Melisa! Thanks for reminding us that “close” is sometimes “good enough”, and “exact” is far “too costly”.

    Let’s then do our best, and enjoy life!

    Have a wonderful day!


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    I like what Ruth said about the journey.

    Great post, once again, dear Melissa! Truly something to think about!


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    Happy new year Melissa :) Wish you all the best this year!

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    Terrific post, Melissa! Happy New Year!

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    I always enjoy your blog and your last two posts have been very insightful. These are some things that I have been struggling with for the past two years and I’m trying to find that balance. Thanks!

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    Oh, and how did you get a picture of my house? Well a girl can dream can’t she.

    Scrumptious pictures. Love the pretty decor.

    Happy New Year!

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    Hi Melissa, Just reading your last post and this one, thank you for posting such fantastic food for thought. Let us all live our best life with time to enjoy every single moment.

    Happy New Year, you are such a darling.
    Jenn and Jacqui

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    Oh, I really like this post. It really speaks to me, because I love to paint, but I don’t do it as often as I would like because I expect everything to be ‘the best’. It is as if I expect to be a world class painter every time I put a brush to canvas! Yes, I can see how the best is the enemy of the good.

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    Lovely pictures. Sometimes good is good enough!

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    I think I would take good over best. Sometimes perfection is not all that it is cracked up to be.

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    Dear Melissa – you are very pensive I’ve noticed lately my dear. Sometimes it’s good (to stop blogging!) and step back and have a good look at life :-). I feel the same way about my children as you do with your husband when they come and try and play with me whilst I’m on the computer “working” ( ha!)!! I should be with them not on this darstardly computer.

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    Dear Melissa – you are very pensive I’ve noticed lately my dear. Sometimes it’s good (to stop blogging!) and step back and have a good look at life :-). I feel the same way about my children as you do with your husband when they come and try and play with me whilst I’m on the computer “working” (ha!)!! I should be with them not on this darstardly computer.

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    I’m right there with you. Discernment would do me good also!

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    Dear Melissa,
    I’m pondering your entry and realize in reading this how I have put the “best” things on my short list and the “good” things on my long list. Time for flipping my priorities a bit. Thanks!
    Lisa & Alfie

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    Melissa, I felt a sense of deja vu’ as I read through your post…I have been doing some thinking about this recently, and one of my resolutions for 2008 is to spend my time doing what I enjoy the most rather than what I must do..
    Thanks for sharing your always it is very inspiring to read your posts


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    Very deep! I will have to think about this sometime when I am not busy being either wasting time or wasting time trying to be perfect.

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    I like what another posted..’perfect actually means finished’
    Nope, God isn’t finished with me so I’m far from perfect! Thank
    Wonderful post dear!!

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    Great post!

    Happy New Year! I wish many many blessings for you in 2008.


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    Hmmm…I do think that it depends on the situation of course. But I think that the the phrase was intended differently (We use that phrase all the time here, in French.). It is intended to mean that sometimes trying to do the best gets in the way of doing what is perfectly acceptable and fine. For example I have a friend who never invites others over because she wants everything to be perfect. So when she invites people over, she exhausts herself planning, and cooking and cleaning for weeks and making everything (including things that no one would notice) exactly perfect. This process is completely draining for her and so now she is at the point where she almost never invites anyone over. In this case, the perfect is the enemy of the good. Because all her friends want is the good, not the perfect. And she too is missing out on what she wants most – to spend time with her friends.

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    A timely piece.
    My husband had to remind me he was feeling neglected. I felt terrible! I was too busy doing good things to pay attention.

    I have a smooth stone I found and it resides on my desk as a tangible reminder to be kind and considerate, not forgetting his needs.

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    Yes, great posts, Melissa! It is definately a struggle juggling it all and as a result, not be able to pay attention to the things that are most important. I am really struggling with it all these days as well. Trying to figure it out. Love ya, Esther

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    Oh, that was goooood! That was more than gooooood! yes, I totally agree. I force myself away from things to spend time with Mr. Lovee. Sometimes, I will be trying to catch up on computer stuff and I se ehim roaming around, poking in the kitchen… And, I just stop what I am doing, and join him… So, this is perfect what you are sharing… Yes, I need to do more with the people I love for certain… Good Godd thought Miss M!! xoxo

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    Oh dear…how to drop the perfectly good thing in the hand for the best thing. Reminds me of the story about a little girl who reached her hand into a jar to grab a quarter. With her fist around it, she couldn’t remove her hand and was trapped. When she let it go, she was able to not only remove her hand, but to also turn the jar over and get the quarter.

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    Thanks for your comment, and your very kind words. It was very encouraging!

    I read this post of yours yesterday, and I was blown away. Lots of wisdom here, and to top it all off pictures of a beautiful house that somehow complement your thoughts so nicely!

    Your thoughts are so true for me too! As a Christian I find it interesting that so often I make idols out of perfectly good things (God’s blessings even) because I exalt them over the BEST thing – Christ.

    I hope you press on, and I am thankful that you took a minute out of your day to encourage me!

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    My husband and I have spent a while living on the family farm – in the beginning by necessity and in part by choice. It’s been a great reminder of what’s really important, because “good things” on my list often include having more privacy and more space, but living with our family for the last time has been made up of many “best” moments. It’s something I’ll always remember and miss when it’s gone, and most of the time that outweighs the need for our own “good” apartment ;).

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    PS- Happy Birthday! You look FABULOUS!

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    We are very much on the same wavelength right now–no wonder we’re BFFs (not to mention your quoting Voltaire!) Since I’ve taken some time off over the holidays, I’ve had a chance to rethink my priorities and I realized that I missed the little, everyday moments with P., not just the grand and special occasions, and your post sums it up beautifully.

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    This time of year certainly leads to a lot of introspection and efforts to sort out how we can grow and do better in our daily lives. I am finding so much good food for thought as i catch up on my favorite blogs today! It is always thought provoking and cheering to visit your blog and one of the good things in my day:>)

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    Wonderful thought provoking post.
    The ugly duckling does grow into a swan.

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    Hey Mel, you have inspired me yet again! A good reminder for me in the new year. big xoxooxx Su Ling

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    My sentiments exactly….xoxo3hearts/Lizette


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