"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Doing the Best I Can? Maybe...

By Micky Wolf

As Christians we are to believe the best of others and self. Sometimes that is hard to do when their (or our) actions and behaviors seem to indicate otherwise. In any circumstance, it is helpful to remember only God truly knows what is in a person’s heart.

Yet, a variation on this spiritual principle has caused me to ponder something in recent days. And that is this: do I try to impose the good intention behind “believing the best” onto “doing the best I can” as a way to justify my own choices and the way I behave? Or, put another way—have I allowed “doing the best I can” become a convenient explanation for avoiding circumstances or people that might call forth from me more than I am comfortable giving or sacrificing?

Short answer—yes. Gulp. The truth ain’t always pretty.

A good attitude…

Accepting and embracing a “doing my best in this moment” attitude can be a good thing. There is great value in having this perspective. It wasn’t that long ago that many people, women in particular, believed beating self over the head, actually or figuratively, was the best way to become more whole or holy. Thankfully, truly responsible helping professionals and spiritual guides pay little heed to that approach these days.

There is another group of individuals who also benefit from adopting the ‘doing my best’ attitude—those who have given up the idea that life can be lived perfectly. At some point, usually following a season of pain or suffering of one sort or another, they begin to realize making a mistake(s) or experiencing a failure(s) actually turns out to be opportunity for growth and healing. Life becomes less about ‘doing it right’ and more about ‘savoring and living in the moment’.

Enter the maybe part…

Ever faced with a difficult or less than thrilling task? Something or someone, you would just as soon didn’t need your time or attention? I’m talking about everything from the mundane to the complicated—from taking out the trash, cooking a meal, or changing a diaper to getting up and going to work, making a budget, or engaging in exercise for the body, mind or spirit.

A big clue we might not being doing the best we can is when the justifications begin to materialize. They can sound oh so good and make oh so much sense—which is why we may not realize we are slacking off or settling for less than God desires for us.

Recognize any of these refrains?

“I did it {fill in the blank} yesterday, two days ago, last week. No need to do it today.” I’m doing the best I can.

“It’s too hot, too cold too {fill in the blank} for anything right now.” I’m doing the best I can.

“I could do that when I was {fill in the blank} years old, not now.” I’m doing the best I can.

“Self-care is important so excuse me while I take time for {fill in the blank}.” I’m doing the best I can.

Yep, hands in the air on all counts. Me to a tee some days, with any one of these.

Well, baloney!—to put it mildly.

Knowing the difference…

Whether you call it the conscience, the still small voice, or the echoes of a persevering parent, there is no getting around the reality that I usually know by the time my head hits the pillow at night that I had resorted to various and sundry justification(s) to appease myself at some point during the day that things were okay.

Here’s where taking personal responsibility meets Truth and Love—the Divine Presence—in action:

Choosing to “do the best I can” has to do with how committed I am to actually being the best person I can be by making the choices and taking the actions that reflect God’s standards, not mine—in which case, there is always room for improvement. No head banging. No perfectionism. Yes, for opening ourselves to change and transformation and becoming the unique person God has created you and me to be.

At the root of any meaningful commitment is heart attitude—and anytime an attitude is more for the sake of appearance—even if that is only for the reflection in the mirror—our hearts begin to harden and our actions become self-serving rather than other-centered.

Maybe the question we need to ask ourselves at the end of the day is this: did I make choices and behave the best I could, or is there room for improvement? Methinks we know the answer almost before our eyes close. And if that truth ain’t as pretty as we would like it to be, let us rest in this promise:

But this I will call to mind; therefore I will hope: The Lord’s acts of mercy are not exhausted, his compassion is not spent; They are renewed each morning—great is your faithfulness! (Lamentations 3:21-23)

Sleep well—and have a great morning!
Do I tend to settle for a “doing the best I can” attitude in day-to-day life?
How do I feel about this approach? Comfortable/uncomfortable?
Am I justifying my actions/behaviors with the “doing the best I can” refrain?
Am I open to allowing God to work on my heart attitude?

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