I left my marriage with a long mental list of things my spouse had done wrong. Of all the ways he had not loved me right and been hurtful or unkind. I had a list of that sort for a few people in my life, people I felt I had gone out of my way for and I never felt like they reciprocated or they simply never made me feel like I mattered.
Then one day I watched a TED talk by Joshua Prager. He went looking for the man who broke his neck while driving recklessly. Prager went looking for an apology and didn't get one. An awareness washed over Prager that he shared and it has changed my life. Prager remarked that the man who had wrecked into the bus he was riding on wasn't necessarily a good or bad man, he was a limited man.
This guy wasn't choosing to be obtuse or unkind by not apologizing, he was simply limited in his capacity...his capacity to understand the far-reaching consequences of his actions, to grasp that he owed an apology to anyone, and in his capacity to empathize with Prager in any way.
The man was doing the best he can.
When you go to the family Christmas gathering and your sister-in-law gives you a gift certificate to Outback Steakhouse when you've been a vegetarian for 10 years you can think she is rude and thoughtless or you can think:
She is limited.
She's doing the best she can.
When you call your husband just before he leaves work to remind him to pick up milk on the way home and he subsequently arrives home without the milk, it's easy to believe he's self-absorbed and doesn't care about your needs.
What if instead of that, you thought:
He is limited.
He's doing the best he can.
It felt awful when I believed my Ex caused me heartache on purpose.
It was a terrible feeling to believe he didn't want me to feel like I mattered.
How freeing it was to believe instead none of it was done to hurt me, he was working to capacity, he was doing the best he could.
I felt used when I went out of my way for a family member and they didn't say thank you or ever offer to be helpful to me.
It was freeing to believe they didn't have the skills to do those things, they were doing the best they could.
When I started to believe people were doing their best, the anger went away. Sometimes it was replaced with sadness for a bit, but sadness doesn't eat away at me like anger does. Sadness makes me feel real, where anger makes me feel bad. I don't like feeling bad. I can progress from sad, it doesn't make a meal of me.
I wonder if Prager felt the same transformation? If when he didn't get his apology and realized it was because the man was incapable, he then was able to mourn the loss of his able-bodied self instead of using that energy to resent the person that injured him? I'll take sad over mad any day. Perhaps Prager is the same. Maybe you are, too?
These injustices that are served up to you by others, they aren't that so much as they are people working to their capacity.
We all have a limited capacity.
I want people to respect my limits, so I will allow them theirs.
I want the benefit of the doubt that I'd never hurt someone on purpose.
I am limited.
I am doing the best I can.