Doing your best

Doing your best

There’s a quote that I love, by Maya Angelou that says, “Do your best until you know better, then when you know better, do better.” I love it because it fleshes out the Biblical truth that we are accountable for what we know.

Looking back over seasons of hard times that I’ve had I can honestly say that I didn’t always handle them in the most ideal way possible, however, my heart was almost always to handle them the best that I could – those two aren’t always the same. You see, we all have different coping levels. My coping level might be lower than yours, but it also might be higher than someone else’s. Our coping level is directly related to the traumatic things we’ve experience and how we’ve coped in the past. If we cope well, at the end of the struggle our coping level will be higher for the future. If we don’t cope well, generally speaking our coping level will be lower in the future.

So, we see that going into hard times we all have different ways and levels of coping. I can think of two more recent patches of hard time where this came up. More than once in the midst of them I said, “Well, I may not be doing this perfectly, but I’m doing the best that I can!” And it was true.

I sometimes wonder about the logic behind how we interact with others. We often want people to cut us a break, but rarely offer that same service to them. We expect others to act correctly all of the time but don’t want that same burden placed on us. But that’s part of the reason I love the quote above, it encourages and challenges us to do our best and work toward being better, while not condemning the shortcomings that are inevitable – in ourselves or in others.

A while ago I got into running (well, jogging would be more accurate), until my ankle spontaneously combusted – but that’s another story. The thing I learned about running is that our body is ever adapting. Our “best” one day will not be our best the next. As we learn, as we strengthen, as we adjust to new levels of intensity, our body is always able to do just a little more (unless of course it’s my body, in which case it just blows up after a while – again, that’s another story) 🙂

Our emotional/spiritual body is the same (without the blowing up part, hopefully.) Our goal is to grow as an individual. In doing that, what was acceptable yesterday may not be acceptable today, not because we’re inconsistent, but because the experiences of yesterday should have better prepared us for the experiences of today. There is certainly a learning curve, but eventually if we insist on acting as we always have – that’s no longer our best and may no longer be acceptable.

My two year old niece is learning how to talk. 90% of the time it’s complete gibberish. But 10% of the time you can totally figure out what she’s saying. My 3 year old nephew is also learning to talk, he’s much better – we can probably understand him 75% of the time. My 5 year old nephew is also learning to talk, we can understand him 95% of the time (though his logic is sometimes a little hard to follow.) This is the natural progression of learning how to talk. We don’t expect Isabella (2) to talk at the same level as Micah (5) or even Jo (3). But it would also be unacceptable if Micah talked at the same level as Isabella – he’s past that.

We are the same. We must constantly be learning and growing from our circumstances. While we can only do our best, our best is constantly growing with us. If we insist on always reacting and behaving as we’ve previously done, people will quickly lose patience with us.

We can’t to better than our best, but when we know better we need to do better.