February 20, 2020
Everybody is doing the best they can with the knowledge they have.
I had an insight about this – a sight from within! It struck me like a lightning bolt! I saw something I hadn’t seen before. I saw something that changed me! It changed everything. I’ve had several of these insights, but this is the most recent, so I’ll let you in on it.
Background: Married at 19 for 25 years, divorced in early 90’s. He was also 19 and just a few days younger than me. We had fun. We talked a lot. We enjoyed each other’s company and we thought getting married was a good idea! So we tied the knot.
As we enjoyed our life together we had two wonderful and adorable children who grew up with us. We went to school. We worked. We bought and sold houses. We travelled for work and play. We changed jobs. We attended church. We were the pillars in the church. We were committed. We lived and loved. And, we had our differences! That’s where this story really begins! We had our differences!
Recent background: I was attending a “Professional Training” workshop in La Conner, Washington, February 2019. The subject was about coming from your core. Several days into the workshop the comment was made that “everybody is doing the best they can with the knowledge they have.” As I reflected on this statement, I could see the truth of it. It made sense.
Of course, everyone is doing the best they can with the knowledge they have. I don’t know of anyone who is doing the worse they can. Would anybody do the worst they can? Of course not, that doesn’t make sense.
In fact, this line of thinking led me to a book I’d read years before, THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR by Martha Stout.
She explained (in my own words) how sociopaths do not think the same way non-sociopaths think. They do not have what we call a conscience. They don’t have the thinking that makes something morally unacceptable. They just don’t. In fact, an interesting fact was that in Asian countries (I believe particularly Japan) there are very few sociopaths because the community shame for going outside the norm is so great that they would be ostracized should they allow themselves to express their lack of consciousness. They learn to conform to their society so they can remain within the family and community structure.
But guess what? Not so in our country! We encourage people to express themselves. We get kudos for going against the grain, taking uncalculated risks, speaking out when others are quiet! As I was reflecting on how sociopaths must be doing the best they can with the knowledge they have, an image of my life in the first few months of my marriage popped in to my mind.
I began thinking of those first few months of marriage. I know it was the first few months, because we lived in our first apartment for only three months. It was in this old apartment, with the pull-down bed, the old dressing room and the tiny kitchen with the black and white gas stove from the 40’s that I saw myself throwing record albums at my husband! Angry, fired up, frustrated already and having a difficult time with behaviors that were so unlike what I THOUGHT a marriage should be like.
I must have been doing the best I knew how. I can’t help but think how he must have thought he married a lunatic. Perhaps he was late home from basketball practice, I’d been waiting for hours, and I threw a fit! No wonder he kept his distance, no wonder he probably thought whatever he did was okay since he never knew what to expect from this lunatic.
And then this realization followed.
I had always thought I was owed an apology. But at this moment of clarity, I no longer needed an apology. I forgave him! I forgave myself! I wondered why had it taken me 52 years to remember this incident. Why had I never remembered it during all of those years?
And then it didn’t matter.
It still doesn’t matter. It was just a thought!
I was doing the best I could with the knowledge I had at the time, and so was he. We all are. All the time doing the best we can at any given moment given our thinking at the time.
How simple, yet how profound!