What If We’re All Doing the Best We Can?

Posted on June 29th, 2013 by in Conscious Living, Relationships

Kim Childs, guest blogger

In the past year, I’ve heard from two friends who were disappointed in me because I didn’t meet their expectations or show up in the ways that they wanted me to. In one case, the friendship was already fading and I took the opportunity to own up and disengage. The other friend’s accusations were harder to hear and laced with anger, but I mustered compassion for the fact that she was going through an incredibly difficult time.

Both incidents led me to some introspection and the awareness that I do try to be there for people I care about, not to mention occasional strangers in need, even if my actions sometimes fall short.

But the lessons didn’t stop there.

A few days after the most upsetting conversation, I read a passage from author Wayne Dyer that reads, “Instead of judging others as people who ought to be behaving in certain ways, see them as reflecting a part of you, and ask yourself what it is you are ready to learn from them.”

And there it was. My friends were holding up a big ol’ mirror to me, and it reflected something I didn’t want to see: my own tendency to be hard on people when they fail to meet my expectations.

I used to be a champion grudge holder, and I still harbor resentments against a few key players in my life. I’m always praying for guidance with those, and hoping for a shift. The good news is that when new resentments crop up, I catch them pretty quickly, recalling the Buddha’s message that we only hurt ourselves when we hold on to those things.

Indeed. All the energy that I expend being judge and jury against my perceived wrongdoers (from the person who never returned my e-mails to those who’ve rejected my precious friendship, ignored my invitations or let me down) is energy that I’m taking away from my own life. It keeps me in a very unattractive state of victimhood, too, which is rarely a source of inspired action or healthy connections.

So lately I’m playing with this notion: What if we’re all doing the best we can with what we know and the conditions of our lives? Walking around with that kind of assumption, I’d certainly cut a lot more people a lot more slack, starting with my husband.

Since arriving in the United States to start a new life with me, my husband has faced innumerable challenges, not to mention serious slights and heartbreaks as a proud, black African immigrant trying to make his way in this culture. Add to these stressors a wife who tends to point out his shortcomings (for his own good, of course), and you’ve got a man who’s often behind the eight ball. One of his favorite mantras is “I’m doing the best I can.”

Several months ago, I attended a workshop for women who want to have more satisfying relationships with men. We learned a lot about winning strategies for dealing with the opposite sex from our female instructor, but the most poignant moment came at the end of the workshop, when we heard from a panel of real, live men. The final question to these brave guys was, “If you had a megaphone, what message would you shout for all women to hear?” One answer that pierced my heart came from a white, successful, upper-middle class man going through a divorce: “I’m doing the best that I can!”

The demands of our modern culture can overwhelm us at times, and we’re all doing our best to keep up. Last summer, I got annoyed with a girlfriend who hadn’t replied to my several calls. When she finally did, I learned that she’d been grappling with a cancer diagnosis. I once got testy with a student who showed up chronically late for my classes, only to learn that her husband, the babysitter, was coming home chronically late from work on the one night that my student had to herself. I’m humbled by these kinds of revelations.

Like death and taxes, disappointment in relationships is 100 percent guaranteed in this life. It’s what we do in response that matters. If we want forgiveness, compassion, and understanding, we have to give it. I suggest starting with ourselves, because most of us are the least forgiving there. And I know that when I cut myself slack for my own human failings, I see others through a kinder, gentler lens.

Kim Childs is a writer, editor, Kripalu Yoga teacher, and creative-living coach in the Boston area who leads workshops based on Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and The Prosperous Heart. Kim shares life lessons in her blog, A Pilgrim on the Path, and can be found at her website.

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About Kim Childs

Kim Childs is a Boston-area writer, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Kripalu Yoga teacher and facilitator of workshops based on The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron. She incorporates the teachings and practices of Positive Psychology, yoga and creative living in her coaching, writing, and workshops. Kim spent ten years working as a public radio reporter, newscaster and producer in New York and New Jersey before life called her in a new direction. In fact, it sent her to live, train and work at Kripalu for two years and she's very glad that it did.
  • James Ward

    Well written!

    Your quote from Wayne Dyer made me think of color — the color we see is what is reflected from a surface, rather than absorbed. This may not lend itself easily as a supporting metaphor in this context, but it was an interesting resonance.

    Thank you for sharing your reflections.

    • Kim Childs

      Thanks for your appreciation, James! Glad you found value in the essay. I will ponder the color comment…so much is about perspective…interpretation…yes.

  • David Schouela

    Kim,

    Great article.
    Your article reminds me of one of the posters in the Kripalu stairwell that reads “Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.”

    • Kim Childs

      Hi David!

      Good to hear from you and thanks for the appreciation. Yes – if we’re gonna make up stories, let’s make up good ones and give people the benefit of the doubt before we judge…compassion helps us feel connected instead of victimized…

  • Gonzalo

    Kim, great article. I shall try to read it often. It’s important to remind ourselves that everyone is doing the best they can–just like we are.
    Gonzalo

    • Kim

      Gonzalo – thanks for your appreciation and resonance. Yes, I, too, must remind myself of this all the time! Thanks for reminding me to keep this thought in my mind today. I know we are better people when we do…

  • Sian

    What a wonderful article. Thank you so much for sharing it…just what I needed today (and every day, I suspect!).

    • Kim Childs

      Thanks for your appreciation! Glad it was/is helpful…!
      Kim

  • Alexa

    Thanks Kim! I love this and it totally hits home for me right now. Much appreciated :)

    • Kim Childs

      Alexa – thanks so much for letting me know this, and for your appreciation!
      All good wishes, Kim

  • marc

    Wow this is so me right now .Just starting a relationship that is sort of non traditional and I’ve been having some difficulty adapting to someone who doesn’t always respond in ways I expect or just doesn;t respond.Your suggestion our response to to disappointments is what matters most gives me food for thought Thanx !!

    • Kim Childs

      Marc – so glad you found value and food for thought in this essay – best wishes to you in all relationships! Kim