Doing our best today

Published 12:36 pm Thursday, May 23, 2024

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Given what I do as a priest, and adding to that all of things I read, it makes sense why I spend so much time asking myself the following question: “Am I doing the best that I can with the life that I have been given?” That’s not always a fun question to ask, especially after a long day when all I want to do is crawl into bed and binge watch Modern Family. I just discovered that show, and I think it might be in my top three of all time, which means when my watching gets interrupted by a brain that won’t shut off, I can get pretty frustrated!

But even when they come at inconvenient times, those questions are worth exploring. We only have one life to live on this earth, and we only have one future to leave those who come behind us, so asking these kinds of deep questions about ourselves is not only good, but it’s necessary.

We live in a world full of distractions. Each week, my iPhone tells me how much time I spend looking at my screen. When that notification pops up, I feel a little bit of shame when I realize how much time I spend staring at that stupid little device. We are trained to focus on urgent tasks at hand even when those tasks are ultimately unimportant and meaningless. We forget to do the important work because we are distracted and we don’t create space in our lives to be curious and ask ourselves questions about the quality of our life and the kind of person we are being and becoming.

Are you doing the best with the life that you have been given? Before you ask yourself the question and focus on the failures of today, however, here’s a piece of free advice I paid a therapist to tell me. I was talking about how some days are harder than others and I don’t always feel like I’m being my best self on those hard days. She said, “Every day is different, which means your best is going to look different every day.” She told me to stop comparing today to yesterday. She told me to focus on the moment and to decide then and there that I’m going to do the best with what today has given me. If it’s a bad pain day for me, my best is going to be a bit different. But the possibility still remains to live up to my fullest potential for that day and that day alone, which is really all we can do anyhow.
This was liberating for me. It’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of comparing ourselves to other people or measuring our success today against the successes of the past. All we should do when we wake up is decide that we are going to make today the best it can be, come what may.

If that’s not a question you are used to asking yourself, that’s OK. We have enough reasons to feel bad in this world that you shouldn’t feel bad about not focusing on life’s existential problems at every waking moment. That can turn into anxiety, which is its own problem. So here is a good place to start period. When Jesus was summing up the Law, he said something like this: “Love God, and love your neighbor.” If you aren’t religious, forget the ‘God’ of it all. Just make the decision every day to love the people you meet and treat them with the kind of dignity you appreciate. That is a purpose worth chasing after. That almost guarantees that you will do the best with what you’ve been given. Give yourself grace when you don’t act perfectly, and give that same grace to other people. Being and becoming the best versions of ourselves is hard work. But I believe in you.

Chris Adams is the Rector of St. Peters Episcopal Church in Washington.