Effort or Achievement: Which Do You Value the Most?

by Joe Plemon on January 14, 2011

The coloring book page was taped prominently on my office wall for several years. It was not necessarily artistic; a yellow faced boy, wearing blue shirt, shorts and cap throwing a purple ball to a brown and black dog. The colorings consisted of heavy scratches by blunt crayons, with little consideration of where the lines were. The left edge of the page, having been torn from the book, was ragged.

When visitors would ask, “Why is THAT there?”, I would simply point to the green lettered inscription scrawled at the bottom of the picture: TO PAPA LOVE DYLLAN

Dyllan, by the way, is my granddaughter.

I was reminded of that coloring book page recently while reading Heb 11: 4 “It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed His approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.

Why was Abel’s offering more pleasing that Cain’s offering?

Whereas theologians will point out that Abel’s animal (blood) sacrifice was a better gift than Cain’s vegetable gifts, I prefer to think that God’s approval is based more on the attitude of the giver than the gift itself. Think about it: God is God. He needs our gifts about as much as Steve Jobs needs a PC. God looks past the gift to our attitudes, motives and hearts. We would do well to do the same.

Lesson for parents

Do you applaud your children’s efforts or withhold approval until they achieve a set standard? When our children were younger, we gave rewards for good grades, but we also gave rewards for improvement. We understood that our children were different; getting A’s was easy for some and difficult for others, so we showed appreciation for effort. Ask yourself: “What am I teaching my children when I only brag on them when they hit home runs or make straight A’s? That my love for them is conditional on their accomplishments? Hmmm.”

Lesson for employers

Do you recognize effort? I realize that individual and corporate goals must be achieved in order for businesses to succeed, but a pat on the back for those who are putting forth the effort may be the impetus needed to help them reach and exceed those goals.

Lesson for us all

Accomplishments are important. Excellence should always be pursued. But the journey toward accomplishment and excellence is where we live. Along life’s pathway, we can make this world a better place for our fellow travelers by looking past the veneer of accomplishments and recognizing the substance of attitudes, effort and motives. In a small way, we would be growing closer to the character of God.

Why not start with a coloring book page taped to your wall? God would approve.

Readers:  Which do you value more highly: effort or achievement?  How about your employers, parents and friends?

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