I believe that generally people are doing the best they can. And they are limited often by a lack of options that they're aware of or that they have the strength for, whether that is due to education or trauma or something else. I also believe that generally we can do even better.
It is sometimes hard to reconcile the idea that generally people are doing the best they can with the reality of all the terrible things that happen in this world—all the terrible things that humans do to each other and to themselves and to the world around us.
I believe that we can be kinder and we can be more understanding and we can be more compassionate—to ourselves and to each other and to the world around us.
And I think it's easier to do that when we can see better options and when we can access better options.
Part of what I am trying to do with my life in this world is shine more light on some of these options and help people find pathways there.
Especially in the space of how we act after we fuck up, or in the middle of it.
And in the space of situations where some hurt is unavoidable but not all of it is.
I think we need more models. We need to see, here is what it's like when a situation is handled more kindly, more gently, more authentically, more respectfully. And sometimes, not always but sometimes, it's really clearcut that one way of handling a situation is a better or kinder or more respectful way than another.
And when I have clarity and perspective like this, I want to share it, so that people can learn from it. So I might preach and say, hey, you're in this this situation, this here is the better pathway, this is stepping towards the world that we want to be living in, please try. I can say please try. I can say may I help you try and step into doing that. I can say please consider acting this way.
And at the same time, I'm not you. I don't know what you are personally capable of at any given time. Maybe if I know you pretty well, I can say, I think you can do this, but I can't say I know you can do this. I'm not inside you, I'm not in your shoes. You know if you can do it or not. And maybe one day you can and one day you can't. It's not always linear. Am I always doing in my best in each moment? Well my best looks different when I'm in excruciating pain, when I'm exhausted, when my hormones are out of whack, when I'm sick. I wrestle with my own judgment, I wrestle with my own choices, I wrestle with preaching one thing and sometimes doing the exact opposite. Sometimes our best is basically throwing a temper tantrum.
So I can map out options and I can advocate hard for you to try one of them, I can preach that one is better (kinder) than another, but I can't know what your best is at any particular moment. I believe that we're all generally trying to do the best we can, and there's always room to grow. And that it's not my place to judge your choices.
But we can learn, and we can practice, and sometimes we can get to the place where even in those moments of temper tantrum we can take a breath beforehand, we can be aware that we're about to lose control. Maybe we can step into a different room. Maybe we can ask someone to help hold the space for us or warn them what's about to happen. There's all sorts of learning.
Going back to this idea of the space of how we act after we fuck up, or in the middle of it. Most moral codes are pretty clear about Do This, Don't Do That. But what if you just Did That? Does it matter how you act afterwards? I think so. I think that's exactly where it does matter. That's where there is the most room for healing, that's where there is the most room for growth.
And so I invite you to join me in stepping towards that growth.
ABS :: draft date 11/19/2016
If this piece moved you or sparked thought, I'd love to hear it... by mail. Send me a postcard or a letter. I'll read it. (Though I may not respond promptly.) You can write me at Audrey Beth Stein P.O. Box 380426 Cambridge MA 02238.