Do you think people are doing the best they can? What is your answer to that question? There are several answers to such a question. Firstly, ‘Yes, people are doing the best they can’; or secondly ‘No, they could do better’ or thirdly ‘Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes you must do what is required.’ If your answer was the third option then then you are in good company. It is a quote from Winston Churchill. But it is important to know the context. Context changes everything.
So what did Churchill mean? Is it going beyond the expectations we set for ourselves? Or meeting expectations set by others? When I think about Churchill’s saying in the context of war my mental imagery changes. During World War 2, Churchill was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. In that environment orders must be followed; strength must be found when weakeness is all encompassing; hunger must be put aside while armed conflict continues.
If the answer is ‘No, they could do better’ than there is judgement about the person’s capability. Such a position puts people down, rather than lifting them up. It does not give them the opportunity to change and improve. People thrive on encouragement. Also, they thrive when others believe in them, believe they are doing the best.
If the position is taken that ‘Yes, people are doing the best they can’ then we are practicing the skill of positive intent. If we believe people are doing their best then we remove judgment out of the equation. Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston, explains in her many books about positive intent or assuming that people are doing the best they can.
In this context should I reevaluate what I wrote about the anti-vaxxers? If anyone thinks anti-vaxxers are NOT doing the best they can, are they wrong? Should everyone assume the position of positive intent? Are they doing the best they can?
When Brené was researching the topic she found that people who have compassion are boundaried people. That is, they are clear about what is okay and what’s not okay. Anti-vaxxers are entitled to their views. But action outside of the law is not okay. Anti-vaxxers are subject to the boundaries set in place by goverment.
For example, if there is a health directive that people should not congregate in public, then the directive, the order, must be followed. If masks must be worn then this order must be followed. The boundaries are set in place for community safety. The boundaries cannot be violated. As long as anti-vaxxers’s remain within the law they have nothing to fear. But anti-vaxxer’s or other citizens who protest against COVID-19 restrictions are subject to the consequences. This can include arrest and justice through the court system.
Nonetheless, there are areas such as work environments where positive intent will work. This is alongside setting and maintaining boundaries, expectations for the workplace. But as Brené’s research showed most people don’t have the skills to set boundaries. It is a skill set that must be discovered and learnt.
Brené’s work gave me much to think about. I am about to read another one of her books. As I have said before ‘Life is a journey and as I travel this season of my life I want to gather up all the “scattered straws” to make the journey worthwhile.’ The journey for me goes hand in hand with life-long learning. I am doing the best I can. What about you? Are you doing the best you can?