I choose to believe that they are doing the best that they can.
– Brene Brown
I read this in Brene Brown’s book a while ago and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Some would say this is a naïve statement because it’s not necessarily true. But, I’ve been seeking to really allow this statement to dive deep into my heart. What if I did this? What if I really believed that people are doing the best that they can? It might not change them, but it changes me. It changes how I hear their words, perceive their actions, and removes control. It fosters compassion. Jesus did it, he taught his disciples to do it, and in a world full of judgment, comparison, and criticism what a breath of fresh air if I really did this.
What if we gave people the benefit of the doubt? I want to, but it’s really hard sometimes. It’s so easy to slip into thinking I would do it better or assuming I know the story behind the action or behavior. And…I don’t. What if their best is just being present because they’ve been hurt so badly that they can’t share? What if their best is different than yours? What if their best was just leaving the house that day because of the depression they fight? What if their best is survival? But, maybe, just what if, we realized that in that moment when we start to judge, we stopped.
People don’t know what they don’t know so we need to be careful. We may know how to manage our time, but someone else may not. We may not fear failure but someone else may be crippled by it. We may not wear masks but someone else may not know how to truly be themselves. It’s a complicated messy thing – but – choosing to believe that (fill in a name here) is doing the best that they can helps us walk with some grace and encourages our desire to be the best we can be.
One thing that my years of student ministry have taught me is forgiveness and grace. You can’t walk with teenagers without it. I didn’t do this so well in the beginning, but as with most things, we learn this most when we need it. As I needed forgiveness and grace, so I have come to value it highly for those around me. The kid that screws up, the one that lies, the one that causes drama, and the one that sees judgement all around. We all deserve a chance to do better next time by not holding our past against us.
I’m a glass half-full person, a 2 on the Enneagram (if you know what that is), and an intro-extrovert…depending on the age group I’m with. We all have different perspectives on life and how to live it. So for me, I know that grace might be easier for me to give than for someone who might be a different personality or a glass half-empty person. But, I want to believe that we can all choose to allow grace.
As parents, we know this. Our kids need us to forgive and then let them move forward. If we continually hold their past over their heads we create a culture of shame what builds wounds that can affect the rest of their lives. Yet, we don’t do this as readily for others.
Jesus said, Love your neighbor. This isn’t just your children, those in Africa, or in homeless programs. It’s also the person who sits at the desk next to you. It’s the person who scans your groceries.
What an amazing way to live. To truly choose to believe that those around us are doing the best that they can. Imagine how that might change the comparison, judgement, and criticism our world is full of. Instead of judging the woman in the grocery story with the crying child, realize that you honestly have no idea what her day has been like. Instead of criticizing how someone has chosen to dress that day, realize that what a stranger decides to wear is none of your business.
It is so easy to believe the worst, or think we might have a better way. It’s freeing to let go of trying to change everyone – only Jesus changes people. I can let him do his work and be the best example of grace in the process.
I can hear the critic, but what if they aren’t? I would answer, who are we to say? No one sees into the heart but Jesus. Your willingness to believe the best in someone may just be the turning point needed. Think of it as an act of grace. By believing the best, showing grace, you give someone the opportunity to live into it. It might just be the boost they need to truly move ahead.
And on that day that you’re the one with the crying baby in the store, you’re the one that dropped the ball on the project, you’re the one that fell a bit short – wouldn’t it be great if people gave you grace? We will fall short, we will have bad days, we will have that day when we can’t quite give the 100% needed because we just can’t – and on those days – do the best that you can. God’s got the rest.