Why don’t we assume that people are doing the best they possibly can?
As much as l try not to judge people on their appearance or their perceived circumstances. We can all do this at times, without realising it. In most cases, we are in no position to even guess the reasons, for the current situation they are in. Why not just assume, that they are doing the best they possibly can. We will then be giving them the benefit, of not judging them at all. Doing the best we can as an individual, may be beyond others, to achieve the same level of outcome. But we can’t know, if their circumstances are the same as ours. As individuals with free will, it’s very unlikely they are. It’s easy to think that l would never do or act that way. Not only can’t we know this. we also bring our own personal values into any situation that we encounter.
Only in the last few years, has age allowed me to be more compassionate in my judgement of situations that I encounter. Prior to this, the thought of assuming that people were doing the best they possibly can, became a personal judgement by own standards. Now I realise that my upbringing fostered a very independent way of life. There was no ‘free lunch’ as the saying goes. Everything was a cycle of work and save and if that wasn’t enough then it didn’t happen. Unfortunately l projected these values onto people that l assumed were not trying hard enough by my standards. It took me a while to realise, that even though l thought l had a tough upbringing. How could l know that the person l was judging didn’t have an upbringing worse than mine. Even if they didn’t, l had no right to judge them because their capacity to deal with their particular problems were different to mine.
Doing the best you possibly can is never easy.
Doing the best you possibly can just isn’t enough sometimes. It depends on how far you have fallen down the rabbit hole. There were two young girls who lived in our street. It didn’t take much to realise they were hard core drug users. Many people in the street were subjected to their offensive and often violent behaviour. Were these girls doing the best they possibly could? Maybe they were in their particular circumstances. But they had gone so far downwards that they would of had to fix countless issues, for people to realise, they were trying to do the best they could. When your near the bottom, it’s a lot easier to keep going downwards. If someone has relatively minor problems and finds it hard to cope, what chance do others have, if their problems seem insurmountable. We all have sanctimonious feelings within us, is this where prejudice begins, our having unreasonable feelings or attitudes towards other people?
I am thinking about the line in the poem ‘ The Thousandth man’ by Rudyard Kipling. ‘Nine hundred and ninety-nine of them go by your looks or your acts or your glory. But if he finds you and you find him. The rest of the world doesn’t matter; For the Thousandth man will sink or swim with you in any water.’ I understand and have similar feelings myself. This surely can only apply to family or very close friends for most people. I would think that there are certain people, who will have these feelings towards anyone that needs help. Hence, we hear of so many unselfish acts towards people in need. Without any thought of recognition or reward. But for every person that can achieve this level of sacrifice and commitment towards others. There are countless individuals who need praise for their good deeds. One way or the other it hardly matters to the people who find themselves in the position of needing help.
Sometimes people are doing their best. But their best is extremely hurtful, toxic, cynical and incredibly damaging, in which case we are free to walk away. We are also free to speak the truth with love, because we are able to empathize, not sympathize, where the other person is coming from. After all we are all within a heart beat of life changing circumstances, that can potentially turn our personal world upside down. Isn’t this alone, a good enough reason to assume that people are doing the best they can.