Imagine a person you’re really mad at. Someone who has wronged you. Someone, perhaps, who has acted selfishly or unreliably or inappropriately. You’re no doubt telling yourself a story about why that person acted in that way, and perhaps you’re the victim of that story. How do you feel? Frustrated? Angry? Hurt? Betrayed?
Now imagine knowing without a doubt that person is doing their very best.* They’re handling the situation the best they can with the tools they have. They’re using the information they have, the resources they have, and the coping skills they have to do their very best. Imagine you absolutely know that to be true. Does that change how you feel about this situation?
It does for me. Shit.
It is so much easier to stay angry with someone when you can assume they’re just a terrible person. That they’re out to get you. If you assume they’re just doing the best they can with the tools they have, you might have to feel something else. Responsibility? Guilt? Acceptance?
This is not to say you should allow yourself to be treated badly. After accounting for your own responsibility, someone else’s best may not be right for you. It may not meet your needs. It may cross a boundary you have set (or need to set?). But accepting that we’re all just doing the best we can with the tools we have allows us to do something important. It allows us to move past hurt and anger and start the process of forgiveness.
*This exercise comes from a book I’m currently reading, Rising Strong by Brené Brown. I highly recommend it.