I’m not a huge fan of my current job. Specifically, I don’t enjoy the department I work within. When I transferred from a Texas location to a Tennessee location, I had no choice but to switch from retail to operations, taking me from serving people face-to-face and solving problems on their behalves to a job primarily consisting of behind-the-scenes tasks such as stocking, shipping and cleaning.

Generally speaking, I think manual labor is a beautiful thing, something humans were made for and that we should all do in some respect for as long as we are physically capable–whether that means physical labor in one’s occupation, doing chores around the house, or even helping a neighbor move. However, in terms of this job, I don’t enjoy it because I’m regularly asked to complete tasks I’m not naturally skilled at, meanwhile I’m surrounded by employees doing things I can do, and with much higher aptitude.

Without going into too much detail, I’ve observed a pattern during my escapades of self-betterment in the arenas of my daily job duties. It’s become a goal of mine to continually discover ways I can be more efficient and exhaustive while performing these duties I more-or-less stink at, from vacuuming the carpets to cleaning the restrooms. When vacuuming, I’ll find the electric sockets that give me the most reach. But the aforementioned pattern I’ve observed is finding spots that aren’t cleaned well, presumably because the spots aren’t encountered by customers. This problem was initially pointed out to me when I was asked to vacuum the store for the first time; the manager specifically requested that I vacuum a hallway leading to an employee-only section of the store. I remember him telling me, “No one else vacuums there.”

I continued seeing this phenomenon, where the carpets in front of the sales counters would be cleaner than those behind, or the tops of the sinks would be spotlessly white while the grimy bottoms remained untouched. That’s when I realized that there’s a philosophical question we, almost be necessity, subconsciously ask ourselves when we clean anything: Am I cleaning this for it to appear clean or for it to be clean?

The ramifications of this way of thinking are obviously huge. What if, instead of bathing our entire bodies, we only washed our faces? And maybe the parts of our legs or arms we planned on showing that day? That’s ludicrous. What about the ways we act and the things we say around friends and strangers that we’d never let our grandparents witness? Or how about the couple that outwardly has an exclusive and committed relationship, but inside their minds, one or both of its members fantasize about other people? They appear clean, but they aren’t clean.

I’ve encountered this same pattern within my Christian faith as of late. I’ve been desiring the benefits of being Christ-like instead of desiring Christ himself; I wanted the results of righteousness without actually being righteous. Yet to live with an outwardly righteousness–a life filled with encouraging words and wide smiles, an unflinching public presentation of inner perfection–would just be faking it until I inevitably fell apart.

Appearing clean only works for so long. The mold will grow. The termites will take over. The disease will spread. The thoughts will consume. It doesn’t matter how beautifully decorated your entryway is if your attic is populated with rats. It doesn’t matter how pretty your guitar is if the wiring’s gone bad and the strings are rusted and out-of-tune. Cleanliness is only cleanliness when it’s thorough. Even more so, whether we’re referring to our thought lives, our relationships, or literally our carpets and laundry, the state of cleanliness requires the ongoing act of keeping something clean.

In the long run, cleanliness is always worth it. Let’s not cut corners–we’re not fooling anyone.

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