Doing The Best We Can With the Tools We Have
A while back, I had been looking online at women’s shelters in an attempt to help a young female who was living on the streets near where I worked. One of the websites spoke of having zero judgement about the way their residents chose to live because they understood that these women were coping in the only ways they knew in order to get through each day.
It was a pause and reflect moment for me. It was probably the first time I truly considered the concept of doing the very best we possibly can with the tools we have in that moment. And to some of these women, their “tools” reflected childhood abandonment, abuse, mental illnesses, growing up in a home with addicted family members and any other form of unfair life scenarios that, but for the grace of God, I have never had to experience.
The idea of doing what we can with the tools we have at our disposal on any given day has stuck with me ever since.
I am currently reading Brené Brown’s latest book, Rising Strong, and she devotes quite a bit of time to this exact subject. Are we doing the very best we can? Are the people around us doing the very best THEY can? It’s a tough question to ask, especially when thinking of those we may be in conflict with. Some days it’s easier to think “Nope. That person is NOT doing the best they can. They’re just a jack ass”.
Yet, really, what makes someone a jackass?
How often is our tool “insecurity”, causing us to feel defensive, like when a rival co worker is singled out for a job well done? How often is stress the only tool we have, making us drag ourself half assed through a work day after a sleepless night with a sick baby as a newly separated parent? Or when have we coped from a place of fear for three weeks because our doctor has recommended a biopsy?
How often have we been angry with, or hurt or offended by, someone who has acted poorly from their own place of insecurity, stress, or fear?
How we cope in life is a deep reflection of what skills (tools) we have gained thus far. If we haven’t been able to find a productive way to deal with a crappy childhood, insecurity, low self esteem, loss of a job, daily stress, parenting multiples or insert any other non fun situation here – we’re going to deal in a way that is all about self protection. That means over reacting, getting defensive, pushing people away, shutting down, or even turning to addictive substances in an attempt to stop feeling so badly.
On a day to day basis, our tools will change, and they can be fairly insignificant. Feeling tired, or distracted, excited or calm will all influence our tools. And then sometimes those coping skills are from much deeper tool boxes – childhood trauma, a long term illness, depression or anxiety, a death in the family.
We all know people who, let’s be honest, can be annoying as hell to spend time with. But the more I have gotten to know the ones in my world, the more I realize that, because of deep rooted issues, they just aren’t happy people . When I can stop feeling so annoyed and instead see them as a person genuinely struggling or in pain, I am able to feel much more compassionate and can alter my own behaviour as a result.
This does not mean that we excuse poor behaviour. I believe we are all responsible for who we are, and there comes a point where as an adult, despite our crappy childhood or our currently sucking life, we have to take responsibility for our actions, get help and make some changes. But what it does mean is that we can show each other a little more grace and work a little harder to understand one another rather than simply declaring someone a jack ass and writing them off. (Ok, sometimes declaring someone a jack ass and erasing them from your life can be quite satisfying and truly called for – but at least try to understand what makes them a jack ass).
You also need to give yourself a break, offer yourself some compassion and acknowledge that there are days that your very best may not feel super awesome, and that’s ok. Take a break, reorganize the tool box and try again tomorrow.