There’s an unfortunate side effect to being born a human: Everyone is part of their own universe, and everything in it revolves around them. Things don’t just happen; they happen “to me.” And sometimes every action someone else takes can feel like a targeted personal affront.
But the reality is, nine times out of ten, the actions and behavior of others have absolutely nothing to do with you. And the ways those actions might affect your life is usually the afterthought of an afterthought.
On a conscious level, we understand that our lives are not the only ones that are chaotic or boring, overwhelming or depressing. We recognize that we’re not the only people facing challenges, even acknowledge that many others have challenges that outrank our own. Yet when conflict arises, the benefit of the doubt goes out the window.
Here’s a crazy thought: Everyone is doing the best they can.
The guy who cuts you off when he’s about to miss his exit is doing the best he can. The woman who takes forever wrangling her kids in the checkout line and makes you wait an extra 30 seconds to buy your Heath bar is doing the best she can. The barista who takes ten minutes making your Frappuccino because some other asshole is yelling about her nonfat double-stuffed skinny cow cinnamon latte is doing the best he can. (Yes, even the asshole yelling about the latte is doing the best she can.)
Your boss who gets frustrated and snaps at you is doing the best she can. The mother who dishes out unsolicited advice because she thinks it’s what’s best for you is doing the best she can. The friend who couldn’t show up less than ten minutes late to save his life… is doing the best he can.
Maybe you see yourself in their shoes and soften a bit. Sometimes I don’t return phone calls. Sometimes I interrupt people. Sometimes I get a little too sarcastic. But I know I’m doing the best I can too.
Here’s the M. Night Shyamalan twist to this whole story–Everyone is not actually doing the best they can. Your boss might be a jerk, your mom might be bossy, and the asshole at Starbucks might just be an asshole.
But that doesn’t even matter. Imagine how our everyday lives could be different if we just treated everyone like they were doing the best they can (and honestly, most of them actually are). We’d treat the people around us with much more kindness, and patience. We’d believe in their efforts to treat us kindly in return. Maybe we’d take a second to look around our personal universe, and see we’re not the only one in it.