The other day, I was reading a book by Brene Brown titled “Rising Strong” In one of its chapters, she was discussing the idea that people generally do the best they can or at least they act the best way they know how to act. By the time I reached the end of that chapter, I started wondering to myself, is the person running the red traffic light really doing the best he or she can and is the person who is abusing his wife doing the best he can? Is the father who is sending his kids out in the streets to beg for money really doing the best he can?
More importantly, is this proposition our way of letting everyone who behaves badly off the hook? At first, to be honest, I really hated the idea. I said to myself, how??? How can people possibly be doing the best they can and the world is the way it is? God, this writer is such an Idealist ! She said, this idea changed her? How can it possibly change anyone, it is such a lame excuse?
Deciding to ignore the thought completely, I closed the book and then I started going about my day, but for some reason this concept didn’t escape my mind. See, in such propositions there are two possibilities. The first one is that we believe that people have their reasons for not behaving the way we expect them to and the second one is that we believe that these people are not putting in the effort they should to act the way we expect from them.
I then thought to myself. If I were to go with the second possibility, then I would always be angry and I had a right to be. I would be angry that people are not acting how I expect them to act. But then again do I really have that right? After all, wouldn’t I be judging them according to my terms, without even trying to give them reasons for their “shortcomings”. I would probably be that annoying person who starts off her conversations with the words “You should”, “You must”, “You have to”, “You better” and “I expect you to”. But then I couldn’t help but wonder who am I to expect people to act according to my standards? Have I been crowned as the queen of good morals? Isn’t it possible that someone out there is pissed off at me for not acting the way they expect me to ?
Then, an even more frightening thought came over me. I realized that I had been that person. I was for a long time the person who complains about people not being able to stand in a line at the bank. I was the girl complaining about how silly some other girls are because they only cared about their looks. I was the lady complaining about the smell of sweat when it whiffs from someone in the summer. I was also the girl who got angry at people who can’t apologize and I was the person who got angry about the men who use bad language, the girl who flirts to get what she wants, the man who parties all night and spends his money on clubbing, and the man who says awful things about his family in public.
I did not stop for a second to think that maybe these people are actually doing the best they can. They are acting in the way they believe is the best way to act. The man abusing his wife is maybe someone who needs help and who has some issues from his childhood he needs to deal with. The man bombing innocent children probably did not get the education I got and is someone who honestly believes he is doing it for a good cause. Of course, this doesn’t make such actions ok but maybe these people are doing the best they can and they need help. The girl who is only talking about her looks and the importance of marriage, probably doesn’t know any other alternatives in life and so she too is doing the best she can and the man running the red light may not be stupid and uncivilized like I would have thought but he might be someone rushing to see a sick relative in the hospital, so he too is doing the best he can.
Similarly, the man smelling of sweat maybe someone who isn’t dirty but he may be someone who was working in the sun all day. He could be someone who doesn’t have running water, or someone who was not taught the importance of staying clean.
I realized then that I would be less angry at others if I decided to adopt the idea that people are almost always doing the best they can or acting based on the best they know. Whether this idea is right or not, time will tell, but for now the thought of being less angry at others is not a bad option . I guess life is better when we are more understanding. We even become better people when we are not spending our time passing judgments on others. We don’t have to agree with everyone we meet on every choice they make, but we don’t have to dictate our standards either.
I will give such an idea that much !