One of the most compelling and truly useful ideas we’ve come across recently is from this short clip from Russel Brand’s podcast Under the Skin. Brené Brown shares her research into an essential question: Do you believe people are doing the best they can?
She admits to answering Fuck no! until she explored it further. The five or so minutes of her recounting that exploration is pure, transformative gold.
She found that people who answered YES to the question — about 50% — were extremely compassionate people who were very “boundaried”, that is, very clear about what’s okay and what’s not okay. They are compassionate because they don’t subject themselves to the abuse of other people. They answered YES to the question Do you believe people are doing the best they can? because they knew and respected their own boundaries.
The people who answered NO had allowed themselves to be hurt by the people they thought of when asked the question.
Brown then asked them, “What if God told you that a person you knew was doing the best she could?”
And that yielded the most amazing insight:
If God told me that she was doing the best that she could, I would have to stop being angry and have to start grieving the loss…and I would have to love her, but I would have to have some boundaries about what’s ok…
So we tested out what happens if we assume someone is doing the best they can. We find it pushes us to drop anger, condemnation and opinion. And to realize that it is our job to take care and responsibility for what works for us. Better in all ways.