True Excellence

By Lucy Frances Waddell

Sugar Creek School

Pike County, MO

March 28, 1860

(Age 16)

Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.  This is a maxim often quoted, and generally acknowledged but upon which few, unfortunately, act. – We too often slight our work or perform it in a careless, imperfect manner, pleading the excuse that it is of no importance, that it does not matter whether it is well done or not, that we have not time to be particular with it. – If this is so we ought to let it alone and devote our time to something that is of sufficient importance to pay for well doing.

No matter how well we may have done the same thing before, no matter how much more perfectly we already do it than our neighbors, if it is worth doing at all, we should never be satisfied until we have done it in the best possible manner.  Improvement should be our motto – improvement in everything we undertake.  We should discard the old maxim, “Let well enough alone”, for nothing is well enough or good enough so long as it can be made better. – That which is worth doing or worth having should never be let alone so long as it is susceptible of improvement.

I suppose that no one who hears these remarks will doubt the truth of the general principles I have laid down, however they may vary from them in action.  But as there is nothing to us so important, or so beyond value as our minds, their improvement above all things should receive our most assiduous care, and here, if in nothing else, we should ever remember that what is worth doing at all is worth doing well.—And if no one else acts upon this principle the young woman should.  There is a life of duty awaiting her, duties always arduous, often irksome.  Let her prepare herself to meet them.  Let her cultivate her intellectual and moral power in the highest possible manner that she may be able to fill the sphere that Nature has assigned her in life, in a manner more becoming her dignity and more congenial with her feelings than she is now qualified to do.  Let her, at least, remember that she has duties to perform to herself, and which, if she is true to herself, must and will be done in the highest possible manner.

I exceedingly desire to see our young women filled with a deep and earnest spirit of improvement, for it is no trifling matter and indicative of no common results, to have burning within the heart and animating the soul a restless desire, a sleepless yearning for eternal progress.

We are required to do everything for the glory of God but we cannot suppose that God will be glorified by our doing anything in an imperfect manner, short of the very best in our power.