Family Works

Speaking on adequacy

Rob Coombs ID. Min. Ph.D.
Posted 6/4/17

I just finished extending my 24-by-40-foot box garden to 24x56, in order to include a perennial section for raspberries, asparagus, several herbs, and one of my favorites, rhubarb. I even installed …

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Family Works

Speaking on adequacy


I just finished extending my 24-by-40-foot box garden to 24x56, in order to include a perennial section for raspberries, asparagus, several herbs, and one of my favorites, rhubarb. I even installed an irrigation system so that I never have to worry about water shortage. My back is still sore from digging the 150-foot trench for the water supply. Never having worked with plumbing, it was sort of a learn-as-you-go project. When everything worked, I was delighted and just a little bit proud of myself. It’s especially meaningful to accomplish something outside of one’s field of expertise.

Do you feel adequate? Do you feel inadequate? Adequacy is not so much an ability issue as it is a perception issue. Realistically, most of us are more adequate in some areas of life than other areas. What is most important is that our overall perception of ourselves is one of adequacy. This has an important bearing not only on how we manage everyday functions, but also how we tackle new challenges.

A person who perceives himself as being inadequate generally perceives himself negatively. His world is full of “cant’s.”

“I can’t do this.”

“I can’t do that.”

This easily translates to a lack of acceptance or openness to new experience. Attempting something different is too threatening. Rather than admitting this, he may disguise his feelings by being overly critical of anything and everything outside his comfort zone.

Sadly, this leads to an increasingly limited or narrow perceptual field as the inadequate person insists that there is only one way to do anything. Over time, life becomes more and more difficult as he rigidly maintains this limited understanding of both himself and others.

Life is viewed as a series of threats and problems and when failure comes, he overly blames himself or blames others.

To face the ever-increasing challenges, he copes by developing inconsistent self-perceptions and often utilizes denial, avoidance, and distortions of reality. The inadequate person may even resort to destructive or dysfunctional behavior in order to compensate for perceived inadequacy.

In contrast, the person who views himself as adequate generally views himself in a positive light. Although there may be reservations and hesitations, he is more open to new experience. His perceptual field is wide enough for him to consider several options for accomplishing a task. He tends to view life as a series of challenges rather than problems, and generally believes that he is up to most of the challenges of life.

His identification with others is an expression of his own understanding of self. People are just doing the best that they can with what they have, and given opportunity, there is always room for learning and growth. He is realistic about himself, others and this world, but, at the same time, idealistic.

His idealism often leads to spontaneous and creative ways of dealing with life, and an ever-increasing belief in his ability to handle life effectively.

This means that rather than just cope with life, life becomes an opportunity to express the essence of who he is as a person. He believes that he has a unique contribution to make to society and endeavors to share this contribution. Because there is always room for growth, life holds the opportunity for him to become increasingly adequate.

Rob Coombs is a professor with a doctor of ministry degree and a doctor of philosophy with an emphasis in Family Systems.


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