Many years ago a wise mentor of mine offered the belief that “everyone is doing their best.” Though I greatly respected him I dismissed this almost immediately. What a crock! I could think of many situations where I hadn’t done my best. Then a few years ago I read it in some therapisty book. It gave me pause but I didn’t focus on it for too long, easily thinking of innumerable moments when I or someone else could have done better. But a seed had been planted.
It started popping into my head in sessions. Someone would be talking about their awful parent, or spouse, or coworker, or even themselves, who had done or were currently doing things that caused my client to suffer. It is so easy to get stuck in anger stemming from a belief that someone should and could be different. From a detached outsider’s viewpoint I could more easily empathize with the person they complained about, seeing how this unwanted behavior might have reflected their best, with the skills and resources they had at that moment. I began suggesting it, almost tentatively since I knew that I often struggled to wrap my head around this concept. And to my great surprise people started coming back having considered this “doing their best” idea at a crucial moment and immediately finding a new gentleness, allowing them to let go of suffering and move on.
This belief has changed me. This single thought has made me a more easy-going spouse, a more patient mother, a more compassionate therapist/consumer/driver – you name it. I’m not saying I always believe this idea but I find that more often than not it is absolutely applicable to people in my life. And the more I use it the easier it is to believe. When I find myself getting wrapped up in anger or frustration I realize I have l lost sight of it, so I invite it back in and see where it might fit. More often than not it brings me some measure of immediate relief, allowing the Happy back in.