I'm all for treating people with total humanity and empathy. I'm all for forgiving people and being understanding of even their most heinous, despicable transgressions.
But can we please stop with this idea that "Everyone is doing their best?"
You hear this a lot when someone is encouraging you to have empathy for your fellow man. "Everyone is doing their best to get by in this world."
Are you actually doing your best? Or is that just a platitude you've repeated to yourself ad nauseam? Are you actually doing everything you can, or do you just try until you get tired and then feel like you've done enough?
I mean it's just a patently absurd idea. Americans watch 4 hours of TV a day. Unless our goal is to morph into a species of potatoes, I'm not exactly sure how we're "all doing our best." We passively let our dreams drift away, we do as little work as we can possibly get away with, we treat our bodies like garbage disposals, and we have the nerve to say that we're "doing our best?"
Almost no one is doing their best, which isn't the worst thing in the world. As long as you're not murdering or raping anyone, you're usually okay. So if that describes you, give yourself a nice, unenthusiastic pat on the back.
But it doesn't mean we can't be doing better. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't be doing more to better ourselves and others. So in order to do that, let's dig into one of the core reasons why we don't do this.
At some point along the line, "Doing your best" became almost commodified. It replaced winning as the goal--which is good. Winning is a dumb metric based on how you compare to others, and the only thing that really matters is how you compare to you.
But that idea softened up the goal more than it should have. People then confused "Doing your best" with going out and giving some vague semblance of an effort. People complain about how everyone gets a trophy with little kids soccer, which would be a decent complaint if it weren't coming from the people who gave us the trophies in the first place.
But the real problem isn't that losing kids get trophies. It's that kids that don't even try get trophies. It's that the kid that sits down in left field playing with dandylions gets trophies, and you know, he didn't do his best. He is being rewarded for blowing on a weed with a trophy he probably doesn't give a shit about. That's stupid. Give the kid a trophy for building a really badass Lego set, or whatever he's actually into doing.
We shouldn't provide unearned emotional rewards, because that's what leads to this bullshit mentality. That's what leads to a culture full of complacent zeroes pondering their dreams for a half hour every week in between Seinfeld reruns and acting like they're doing something positive.
Patting yourself on the back for doing your best is a good thing if that's actually what you've done. So let's not replace that standard. Instead, let's actually enforce it.
Let's take a fresh look at what "Doing your best" actually means.
1) Sacrificing things you like
Doing your best often means kind of being a dick to yourself. It means forcing yourself to sacrifice things you want to do for things you have to do.
It means spending less time on things you like like friends, TV, social media, and sitting with your thumb firmly planted up your ass.
It does not mean, trying hard on things sometimes, and otherwise letting life's simple pleasures take you over. It does not mean pursuing your dream for a half hour on Thursday and rewarding yourself by never doing anything productive ever again. It means occasionally telling relatives that you can't see them. It means pushing yourself past your point of comfort. It means, often, doing shit you hate.
2) Actually doing the right thing all the time.
This includes moral decisions. You have to do your best to not be an asshole--like all the time. If you don't, then guess what? Not doing your best.
3) Approaching life thinking critically and living based on that.
4) Working until you're tired, overdoing it a lot of the time.
5) Working towards actually defined missions. This is really key.