Hindsight Is a Cruel Critic

August 7, 2017

“I’ve seriously been holding onto this my whole life,” he told me as we talked. “Working up the courage to call you and apologize.”

He was my first love… back when I was a freshman and the two of us were just babies, running around the halls of our high school thinking we knew who we were and what we wanted. You don’t realize until you’re older that you knew nothing about anything at that age, am I right?

“I honestly don’t even remember that,” I replied after some thought.

Yet he remembered every detail of the day. That I was wearing a black shirt and light blue jeans. How I showed up at his parent’s door and everything we said. The entire moment clearly burned into the deep recesses of his mind.

A moment he carried for 18 years.

“You’ve got to let it go and forgive yourself,” I said as our conversation started winding down. “You did the best you could, and I don’t even remember it.”

As we travel through this life and each journey we’re called to walk, there will be moments we’re not proud of, moments where we fall short, and moments where we hurt those around us.

It’s the nature of living, breathing, loving, and being.

I’m no stranger to this, and if I had to tell you all the ways I’ve failed, hurt another’s heart, or did something I wasn’t proud of, it would be a very long list.

Since my loss, I’ve let a lot of people down in many different ways, because the best I could give in any moment was always going to fall short. The most I was able to show up was always going to be less than expected or desired. It was a challenging truth to living life in the deepest depths of grief and trauma.

We’re all doing the best we can in every moment.

That’s a fact, even if you can look back and say, “I could have done better.” Sure, you probably could have… if you had the knowledge, resources, experiences, and skills you have now. Hindsight is a powerful growth tool and a cruel critic. Hindsight allows us to see the whole picture, all the energies that were at play, and all the alternate ways of being we could have chosen.

Except that we couldn’t have… not in that moment, because we didn’t have all the information, wisdom, and insight we have now.

This isn’t permission to be a jerk, hurt others, slack off, and then gloss over it with “I was doing the best I could.” You KNOW the difference.

This is simply about acknowledging that sometimes our best isn’t going to be enough for someone else. And sometimes another person’s best is going to be hurtful or downright awful.

There are people I should hate with every ounce of my being… because they chewed me up and spit me out. They crossed my boundaries, picked me to pieces, and abused my heart and spirit. They hurt me physically and emotionally. They took things from me. And while feeling the anger and hurt is necessary for healing and releasing, eventually I come back to the same place:

They were literally doing the best they could in that moment.
Even if their best was a far cry from acceptable.

Does it mean we make excuses for people or stay in situations that aren’t right for us? Absolutely NOT. But it gives us an explanation. It provides us with the ability to see that what they did or didn’t do was never personal. It was never about us. It was about them and the best they could give in that particular moment. Maybe it was awful, but it was still their best.

All this to say: don’t get stuck.

Don’t let mistakes or failures weigh you down.
Don’t let grudges or hurt and anger hold you hostage.

And definitely don’t hold onto any of it for your whole life.

Learn the lesson that’s there to learn. Let hindsight show you a new way of being and approaching a situation. Make amends if you need to. Set boundaries where boundaries need to be set. Commit to doing better next time.

But don’t let any of it hold you back. Never ever.
We’re all doing the best we can, even when it sucks.

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