Offering Your Ordinary – What to Do With Your Mediocre Middle

by Andy Wood on January 13, 2016

in Ability, Allocating Your Resources, Exploring the Possibilities, Five LV Laws, Life Currency, LV Cycle, Principle of Freedom

Average Guy

What are you good at? I mean, really good? When people ask you about your strengths, what are your boilerplate answers?

Now, the dreaded weaknesses. What are those things you repeatedly tell people or God or yourself that you need to work on and improve?

Now I’m sure as soon as you read those questions, the ready answers showed up. And at some point you’ve probably had the tug-of-war about which you should work on – do you leverage your strengths or work on your weaknesses?

Uh huh.

Now take both of those mental lists and set them aside for a minute. Let’s boldly go where no one dares to go…

Let’s talk about your mediocre middle.

See, none of us are awesome at everything, and none of us is terrible at everything. A significant part of your life falls somewhere in the middle. And because it isn’t all that remarkable, you just don’t give it that much attention.

Too bad, since that’s where most of us live most of our lives.

Think of it this way. Let’s arrange all the ways you could measure the strengths or weaknesses of your life. Things like intelligence, people skills, various talents, leadership abilities, spiritual activity, arts or sciences ability, whatever. If you were arrange them in order, from the highest abilities to the lowest, let’s assume that the top 15% are your true strengths, and the bottom 15% are your true weaknesses. That leaves 70% – seventy percent! – of your life flying below somebody’s radar.

What do you do with that?

What do you do with the stuff that to you is no better than ordinary?

If you’re like most people, you largely ignore it. That is, until something happens and you wind up feeling beat up or useless for being so average.

May I suggest a different plan? One that doesn’t involve you having to choose between hero and zero? Here are five ideas for managing your mediocrity:

1. Suspend Your Judgment

Just because you think you’re average or mediocre in an area doesn’t mean you actually are.   One thing I have learned is that many of the areas we are exceptional in are so natural to us, we assume that there really isn’t anything all that special about it. Yes, I’m telling you that you can be blinded by your own genius or giftedness.

This is also true relative to time. You may be hanging on to an image of yourself formed when you were an adolescent or child. But life moves on and people grow, and you’re no exception.

Most of all, what you consider average should be examined in light of God’s truth. Read that Bible again – look at how many exploits were accomplished by the non-specialists, the untrained, the ordinary. Gideon was called a “mighty man of valor” by an angel – while he was hiding in his wine press. Jesus picked twelve distinctly ordinary characters – not losers, but not the standard bearers of his day either – to be the foundation of His global enterprise.

2. Use your mediocre middle to build relationships.

Geniuses and goobers have one thing in common – they can be pretty lonely because people have a hard time relating to them. It’s in the middle ground where you and I can find common ground with some pretty awesome people – who are just as mediocre as we are.

I should probably mention here that with the right focus, commitment, and leadership, a team of non-stars can still leap tall buildings in a single bound. Two really are better than one. And when the team doesn’t get distracted having to massage egos or making up for ugly levels of talent or commitment, something amazing can happen.

3. Cultivate Faithfulness

“Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness,” the psalmist writes to those who are fretting because they aren’t seeing remarkable things happen.

That sounds real sexy, doesn’t it?

Let’s watch the paint dry or the glaciers move.

One of the problems in our culture is that it seems that nobody honors (or pays!) those who simply put one foot in front of another and get the job done. But if all those people, you included, suddenly ONLY focused their lives on their strengths and weaknesses, entire organizations and even nations could crumble.

One faithful employee, one faithful servant of Christ, one faithful member of a volunteer organization can make up for a lifetime of weakness simply by being faithful with his mediocre middle.

4. Find Your Edge in a Different Way

Talent is over-rated. Just ask the Cleveland Browns or Dallas Cowboys. But I digress.

For those areas where you feel as though at best you only blend in, look for ways to put you ahead of the pack. For example one of my former bosses gets up at 3:00 every morning. His explanation: “I figure there is no way I can compete with you guys on talent or intelligence, but maybe if I get a head start, I can stay up with you.”

Obviously you don’t have to get up that early, but I did learn that in a study of the sleep patterns of the most successful people, 56% of them were up by 5:30 and 67% were up by 6:30.

You can find your edge in others ways, too, like forging partnerships, networking, developing skills, and (most important) trusting in God’s strength and grace to empower you. Which leads to…

5. Offer Your WHOLE Self as an Expression of Worship

When Paul encourages the Romans to present their bodies as a living sacrifice in Romans 12:1, he is referring to their whole selves, not just their physical bodies. God wants you. All of you. Your strengths and weaknesses to be sure – but also your mediocre middle.

I don’t mean a mediocre mindset that settles for mediocrity.

I mean a mediocre set of abilities and otherwise unremarkable parts of your life that, when you offer in love and awe to the One who is worth your all, can be transformed into supernatural strength.

So you aren’t the smartest girl in the group. So what? Give God your average intelligence with a spirit of gratitude, and see what He can do with that.

So you have all the passion and personality of a limp dish rag. Whatever. Offer to God your unremarkable personality and see what He does with your trust.

So your ambitions aren’t all that ambitious by worldly standards. Who said they had to be? Offer to God your steady faithfulness and see what a difference He can make through your service.

So you look at your body type and appearance and just can’t see anything all that amazing. May I remind you that Isaiah prophesied of Jesus: “He has no stately form or majesty, That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him” (Isaiah 53:2). I think Jesus gets what it’s like to be ordinary-looking.


One last bonus thought. In a split second, your life can go from unremarkable to amazing. And what people call an “overnight success” is often somebody who has been plugging away at their craft, their relationships, or their assignments faithfully for years.

Learn to cherish the potential and beauty of life lived in the middle. What you call ordinary may well be a gateway to breathtaking joy and beauty. And don’t let anybody rob you of that… least of all, yourself.

Martha Orlando January 13, 2016 at 6:46 pm

A huge amen to this post, Andy! We can be extraordinary in the ordinary when we place God first in our lives and allow Him to work through us. I remember thinking, all too foolishly, that I would be an overnight success with my novels. I’m still waiting to see that. But the most important thing is, I’m trusting in God’s timing for it all. I know I obeyed Him by writing the stories I held in my heart, ones that would bring glory to Him and spread His kingdom, and I’m trusting that He will place them on fire at just the right time when a hurting world will be ready to hear.
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..Growing Up

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