Angie and I both stood in the church hallway, bouncing our fussy babies on our hips. Our conversation turned to temple attendance. I sighed, “I’ve been going once a month to do sealings. I should probably go more often, but I’m doing the best that I can.” Angie stopped bouncing and looked at me, ”You’re not doing the best that you can. You could go more often. The temple is only five minutes away. I have two more kids than you and I go every week.” I was flabbergasted. I barely knew Angie. How dare she say that I wasn’t doing my best? But I thought about what she said for months. Was I doing my best?
“Just do your best.” We hear that all the time. Just do your best as parents and your kids should turn out OK. Just do your best as a wife, a student, an employee, a member of the ward. Technically “do your best”, should mean just that. Our best. The best we can do. But too often it seems like a copout. Too often “just do your best” ends up meaning “just do something”.
I think people use this phrase to mean, “don’t overdo everything and exhaust yourself trying to meet everyone’s expectations.” But is that what it’s supposed to mean? Or is it actually, “decide for yourself what ‘your best’ is and strive to meet that goal”?
What throws me off is the way that people rattle this phrase off whenever I do a poor job of something. My son gets in trouble at school? “Don’t beat yourself up”, says a kind neighbor; “you’re doing the best that you can.” But I’m not. Deep in my heart I know I could do so much more for my son. I think of all the ways I could help him. But it’s a lot of extra work. Some days I’m up for it, but most days I’m just too worn out or busy doing a million other things. It shouldn’t be that way, but that’s the truth. So it rankles me when people toss that phrase around. In so many ways I’m not doing my best: I squander my time. I don’t always choose what matters most. I could try harder at just about everything. I feel like I’m somewhere between decent and good in most areas of my life. But doing my best? I don’t think so. Unless “my best” is simply another way of saying “enough”.
Is “doing your best” just another way of condoning mediocrity or does this phrase remind you to strive harder for your goals? Or maybe it only reminds you that you can’t be perfect and to take it easier on yourself.