The Last Word
Sandi Tomlin-Sutker, Editor
Have you ever noticed how often people use the phrase “They did the best they could,” or, “She did the best she could given the circumstances,” etc.?
For several years I’ve thought a lot about what that really means. A friend used it a couple of weeks ago about her parents while she and I and two other friends were having coffee. In that context it was about not blaming them for the way they lived their lives and the effect that had on her.
Yet, I was moved to say, rather boldly, since these were good friends who know me… “I disagree that they did the best they could. They made their choices and there’s no blame in that now, but was that their best?”
I often hear people use that phrase when they have disappointed themselves or someone else. And, I’ve thought a lot about it for myself. How often am I truly doing my best?
I think we make choices every day (well every moment) and those are based on, perhaps, faulty or incomplete information or youth or naivete. Maybe in that context we did the “best” that was possible at the time.
But, generally, I think we make choices based on our desires, our fears, our ego, our habits. We may feel at the time that we are compelled to do what we do, to make certain, specific choices. And later, if we don’t get the results we wanted, or we negatively effect someone else, we may believe we did our best in order to assuage our guilt!
But, here’s my main point: wouldn’t life be richer and our psychological and spiritual growth deeper if we say instead that we simply did what we did, chose what we chose? And we recognize our motivations as not always choosing for the highest good.
One friend, at the coffee shop, said to me, “You’re too hard on yourself; you’re a perfectionist.” At times that is true. But how I want to live is to be as fully aware of the motives for my actions even when I choose a lesser path for some reason. In that way I feel I can do better next time (after all, if I say I’ve done my Best, how can I improve?!)
At the same time, I recognize that we are all “just human” and are unlikely to ever be perfect. So, add to the mix a good dose of love and forgiveness and awareness and perhaps the world will be a step closer to the best it can be.