Consistently looking for the best in people you love, in life and the world helps create and deepen happiness. It does not mean being a Pollyanna who pretends negative things do not exist. Looking for the best acknowledges that something has a negative effect on us or others. But it also acknowledges that the negative is not the only reality in a given time or person.
People are not perfect (including you and me!). Yet even though we all do and say stupid things sometimes, and sometimes accidentally say or do things that have hurtful effects on someone else, that doesn’t take away the best of who we are. So even when someone does something that frustrates me or feels hurtful, I like to hold that behavior in one hand as something I need to address while in the other hand, I continue to hold the best of who that person is.
Sometimes I need to explore inside myself why the person’s words or behavior bothered me or hurt me so much, why I am reacting the way I am. My reaction is usually to the instant ‘story’ or ‘interpretation’ that my own brain makes up about the event. Other times it is something I need to discuss with the person after I’ve done my own self reflection. But I regularly remind myself that while I hold that in one hand, I can continue to hold the best of who that person is in my other hand.
Looking for and holding the best goes beyond just the people in our own lives. There are terrible things that happen in the world and as human beings we need to name them and take action — but those things do not take away the best of what is in the world. I can hold both the terrible and the truly good of humanity. There are devastating forces of nature, but that does not take away its beauty. I can hold the sadness or anger at the tragedy of a tsunami or tornado and in the other hand I can hold the magnificence of a flower or a sunset or the birth of a new baby.
I don’t know about you, but I know when I experience physical, emotional, or relational pain, the pain becomes like a whirlpool that wants to suck me into it. It pulls in my energy, my attention and if I’m not careful, it can easily become all that exists for me in that moment. But I know it isn’t all that is. There is the pain — AND there is the reality of the good in life, in a person, in the day. I don’t always do it perfectly. Sometimes I am in that whirlpool before I realize that it is pulling me into it. But, as soon as I can get my head out of the water to gulp in some air, I have the chance to remind myself of having two hands in which I can hold both the worst and the best. Sometimes I literally have to look at my two hands to remind myself!
When I am conscious of both aspects, I can look at the issue and take action in a bigger and more accurate context.
I love the quote from the Talmud:
“We do not see the world as it is, we see the world as WE are.”