Strategic Incompetence

It can be quite useful to be bad at something.

Some men excel at the art of "strategic incompetence". They find that if they cook a completely inedible meal, or generate 50 pots of washing up in the process of preparing a meal, they are not asked to do it again. They are unable to see the grease (and bits of melted cheese) still stuck to the plates after their "washing up" efforts, thus find themselves excused from further duties. Their attempts at washing clothes render all the whites pink and all the woollens downsized, and they find themselves exempt from future laundry duties.

Whether such incompetence is innocent or deliberate, the result is the same... their time is freed up for other activities.

It is actually impossible to be good at everything, and our weaknesses are usually the flip side of our strengths. There has been research that suggests those who are outstanding in a field are not "well balanced" people... in order to excel in one area, other areas of their life have been neglected.

People are perhaps best off concentrating on their areas of strength. In ministry, focusing the bulk of one's time on the things that are aligned with one's spiritual gifts, natural talents and deep heart passions are likely to be fruitful... spending the bulk of one's time in areas that are outside of these is likely to be taxing and less productive.

Now, I'm not suggesting one should shirk responsibilities or avoid all unpleasant tasks... discipline is an essential ingredient to a fruitful life. God sometimes calls us to tasks that are displeasing to our natural selves, but are very pleasing to Christ.

I believe however, more often than not, God delights in round pegs in round holes and square pegs in square holes... in lives that have considerable focus on vocation, on primary calling, on natural strengths and primary spiritual gifts.

The "shape" of the various "holes" where people fit best can be incredibly diverse. My sister has an absolute love of administrative tasks... her idea of delightful recreation is to go somewhere alone and do paper work. .

I on the other hand, have the anti-administration gift. If your intention was to make me stressed, bored, or miserable (or all three similtaneously), force me to spend the bulk of my time in routine, attention to detail administrative tasks. I'm simply not good at them.

The fortnight before I ran a women's conference earlier this year, the admin. support person left our office. It took another week to employ a temporary administrator, leaving the week that conference RSVP's were due without an administrator for my department. I had learned how to process registrations on the database the week before our admin support person left, which led to an incredibly stressful "registration" week. At precisely the "crunch time" when I needed to be contacting speakers, worship leaders, and volunteers for various conference tasks, my time was sucked into processing registrations. I recall muttering to myself I would have been far, far better off not knowing how to do this, as my stress levels spiralled to dizzy heights. If I had remained "incompetent" in relation to the database, the women ringing in wanting to register for the conference would have become the organisation's problem, not my problem.

Well I did survive the experience, and it may have been good for my character. But this certainly reminded me that it's perfectly alright not to know things. I was once taught how to do a car service... but I'm content to have forgotten this skill and to provide employment to someone who actually likes tinkering under an engine. I'm content not to have a doctorate in geophysics, or engineering qualifications (one engineer in the family is well and truly enough!) or expertise in futures trading or an understanding of how computer programing works. (although I'd like to be a little better at remembering where I've left my keys...)

So is ignorance bliss? Are weaknesses a blessing in disguise, helping us to focus on other more fruitful areas for our lives? Is "strategic incompetence" sometimes a valid strategy for life and work? I'm interested in your views!!!


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