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Honey, we did the best we could

Caveat to this blog – The following never occurred in my family. My family communicated perfectly. Ahem. Ever hear this slice of conversation in your home? “Mom, why didn’t you and Dad stop fighting?” “Honey, we did the best we could.” “We did the best we could” – what does that even mean?…
By Seth Barnes

Caveat to this blog – The following never occurred in my family. My family communicated perfectly. Ahem.

Ever hear this slice of conversation in your home?

“Mom, why didn’t you and Dad stop fighting?”

“Honey, we did the best we could.”

“We did the best we could” – what does that even mean? It could mean a lot of things. So much is latent in the subtext of that statement that as I was taking a shower this afternoon, it just rattled around in my brain, begging to be explored.

Here are some things it could mean:

  • “What we didn’t know back then was a lot. Given our ignorance, we bumbled through.” Or…
  • “I know I messed up, but this is not something you and I are going to talk about now.” Or…
  • “I actually did a lousy job, but I come from a long line of failure, so what can you expect?” Or…
  • “You don’t have any idea the pain I’ve been thru. I can’t even talk about this.” Or…
  • “Yes, we did the best we could because we tried to control everything and never gave God a shot.” Or…
  • “I’m too tired and you were way more than we expected.”

If you’ve ever had this said to you or you’ve ever said it to someone, maybe you can add your own thoughts.

“We did the best we could” is a defensive response that shuts down the person asking the question. If accompanied by a tone of voice, you can use lines like that to set up a perimeter and stiff-arm the other person.

A lot of our communication habits we inherited from our parents – maybe we never even stopped to analyze how counterproductive they are. If you want to really do your best, you’ll take down the barriers that keep people from connecting with you. Start by asking someone close to you, “Am I a defensive person? Do you feel like I listen to you? Am I really hearing your heart?” Then let them help you change. Give them permission to stop you mid-sentence if they feel you shutting them down and you may eventually begin to erect a bridge of empathy and connection between you. If that’s what you want, it will be worth the pain.

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