Doing the best we can.
I was involved in a conversation the other day about whether or not people are doing the best they can. One person said (I paraphrase), “It’s such a cop-out, when someone screws something up, to say they did the best they could. As if that excuses the screwed up result. It’s really just a way of justifying their lack of effort to do better.”
I get that. If I’m making cookies, and I allow my attention to get snagged into something else, and let the cookies burn, did I do the best I could? I would have to say no. I could have set a timer and paid attention to it, and not let the cookies burn.
Suppose, though, that you hurt someone, or caused a situation to get ugly, through thoughtless actions, or just your selfish inattention to something you should have attended to. Did you do the best you could? Maybe.
Because we are all evolving creatures, whether or not we acknowledge it. Perhaps what we did is make a bad choice, based on a bunch of things, like our life experiences, or our lack of sleep last night. Maybe we have a child/sibling/friend who has taken our attention and bogarted it so that we are just trying to get through everything else. (aka “creating drama”)
Brene Brown has a whole chapter in Rising Strong about people doing the best they can. She goes into it thinking NO, THEY DON’T!!! But she comes out of it saying that she now believes most people actually do the best they can.
There is a caveat, and when she added that, I agree with her. That is: People do the best they can from their level of consciousness at the time. Think about that. When you got frustrated, causing you to be unkind, or uncompassionate, or just rude…..what was underlying that? Where was your consciousness at the time? Was it in the present moment, or was it lost in the slight you felt from your significant other earlier in the day? Was your inability to take a breath and not fight with your mother, because you were still holding on to resentments from long ago? And were those resentments caused by a desire on her part to hurt you? Or was she then, doing the best she could, based on her consciousness at the time? Had she evolved enough to see the future implications all those years ago, of her actions?
Like I say, we are all evolving. So….a reasonable statement, if our evolution is a given fact, is that when we know better, we do better. I think those might be Maya Angelou’s words.
I’m beginning to realize that the people who have hurt me the most were stuck in an emotional loop that they couldn’t find their way out of. Some of them stayed in denial of what they’d done, and what had been done to them to cause the loop. They repeated the same behavior over and over, hoping for a different result, which we all know is the definition of insanity.
I have said before that the Universe will spit out a lie, it will come back and smack you upside the head. At that point, you can look at it, and know that you could do better, that you now know better, that you are better, and change. Evolve. It’s what we’re meant to do.
Or not. Some people just go on, blaming others, blaming external circumstances. I have to feel sorry for those people, that they cannot see that they had the ability, the freedom, to make choices that would have landed them in a different place. People who are so used to being a victim, that they are fearful of taking control of their own lives. They have so much fear over what they will do if they alone are responsible for the way their lives play out that it freezes them in place. Sadly for them, inaction is also an action. Doing nothing to evolve means you chose not to.
But even then, as a human being, as a spiritual being, all we have to do is be willing to change, and the Universe will do the rest. Willingness. Whole-hearted willingness is all you need.
There are those who are able to sift through all the horrible things that have happened to them. They are willing. As one person very dear to me said, “I realized that the common denominator in all of it was me.” That person spent as much time alone as was needed to be able to let go of most of those old resentments, and grievances, and take responsibility for their own life. To evolve. That person now has a richer, more honorable, and more full life than was ever imagined, and is still willing, every minute, to evolve into a better human being.
If we truly want to know that we are doing the best we can, then we have to have clarity with ourselves. Our level of consciousness will rise, with each action and reaction we own, and follow through with our eyes open.
Live with integrity, live in ways that honor yourself. “I did the best I could” can be an excuse for bad behavior, or it can be a tool to evaluate your own actions, without judging yourself overly harshly, and decide if really, you did the best you could or if your level of consciousness at that time was not exactly where you thought it was, or where you want it to be. And, allow yourself, your level of consciouness, to evolve. Don’t dial it into some endless loop that keeps you stuck someplace where you are miserable.
As Rumi said, “You were born with wings. Why do you prefer to crawl through life?”
Love and light to all.
Interesting post. Realizing that people who hurt me (including me) were doing the best they could at the time gives me compassion. After years of berating myself for not doing enough when I was doing plenty, I have come to accept my best does not have to be perfect. Of course, there’s always room for improvement in anything. Maybe it’s a matter of priorities.