‘Do your best’ is a phrase we hear all the time. We tell our kids to ‘do their best’ and the rest will take care of itself. But what does doing our best mean? And what should the outcome of our best be?
I say this because sometimes without realising it we can unconsciously misinterpret the meaning of ‘do YOUR best’ for ‘do THE best at all costs.’
⭐️ For example, I used to think doing my best meant bending myself both directions until I nearly broke with exhaustion.
⭐️ I used to think doing my best was staying up into the early hours, trying to meet commitments I never should have taken on in the first place.
⭐️ I used to think doing my best was re-reading an email twenty times to make sure there was no mistake in it.
⭐️ I used to think doing my best was forgoing dinner so I could make a planned commitment right on time.
⭐️ I used to think doing my best was meeting the expectations of everyone around me.
⭐️ I used to think doing my best was never missing a note in a performance.
How wrong I was.
You see, doing your best is important, but so is recognising that not only will your best not always be the best – sometimes your best will not be enough.
Yes, sometimes you will invest 110%, only to find it still isn’t enough for those around you.
⭐️ Sometimes your best won’t be enough to get you that dream job.
⭐️ If you’re a boss, your best won’t always be enough to please your employees.
⭐️ If you’re a parent, your best won’t be enough to meet all your children’s needs all of the time.
⭐️ If you’re a friend, your best won’t always be enough to never disappoint.
⭐️ Sometimes the pressure of your circumstances will mean that temporarily you won’t be your best self.
And that’s ok. Really.
Because that’s where grace has the opportunity to abound.
Grace is unmerited favour. Grace is undeserved acceptance. When you experience true grace and learn to give it out, it is life-changing.
Here’s five ways grace kicks in when our best is not enough.
1. Grace accepts my limitations
We are limited beings with limited resources, capacities and abilities. For example, I am just not naturally sporty; even if I gave a 100m sprint my best shot, I’d still probably come in last. I’m also not naturally tidy; I could improve my organisation and do my best to keep on top of clutter, but my house still won’t look like the Joneses down the road.
I’ve also only got so many hours in the day. On the days when it’s my mum’s birthday, I’ve got a report to work on, my kids are off school sick and a friend has an unexpected crisis – I may forget to brush my hair, or fail to make dinner from scratch. And that’s perfectly fine, when grace is present. Because grace knows and accepts our limitations – whatever they may be.
2. Grace is realistic
And that’s because grace is unapologetically realistic. How many times have we expected far too much from ourselves or from friends or family members? But when grace fills our hearts and minds, we are able to accept the frailty of our humanness, and understand that we can’t be all things to all people, all of the time. Experiencing grace allows us to be more sensible about what we can actually achieve, and releases us to put less pressure on others to fulfil unfair expectations.
3. Grace celebrates progress
Grace is not only realistic, it helps us to celebrate when we do achieve something. Even if we have accomplished something seemingly insignificant – like getting to the bottom of the laundry basket or exercising every day in a week – when we have tried hard we should take time to acknowledge that. And even if we fail at something, when we have learned important lessons in the process, then we still have something to be joyful about!
4. Grace extends kindness
Grace assures us that doing our best does not mean sacrificing our mental health or stretching our physical limits out like chewing gum. When we learn to be generous to ourselves even when we get it wrong, how much more will we be equipped to extend kindness to others! We won’t expect our employees to work 60 hour weeks, or our friends to drop everything to speak to us. We can extend kindness, whether it is deserved or not. Do you want to be that type of person? I know I do; giving and receiving grace is the key.
5. Grace sees the heart
Lastly, embracing grace is a journey towards understanding that we are not the sum of your achievements; motivation and effort are much more important. It’s better to do something with a genuine heart and not get it totally right than produce something polished with a terrible attitude.
Your best will not always be enough, so embrace grace
Are you feeling like you aren’t enough today? That’s probably because none of us are, not without grace anyway.
There are some standards we will never meet. Think about it; when the best we could offer wasn’t even close to good enough for God, he gave His best instead – His perfect Son – so He could extend His unmerited favour to us. That is grace.
So next time you’re tempted to be hard on yourself or someone else who isn’t meeting your standards or expectations, remember,
… Grace is realistic. Be aware of your (and others’) limitations, and accept them!
… Grace celebrates progress. Don’t look for perfection, or you’ll always be disappointed. Look to learn instead.
… Grace extends kindness. Look for ways you can merciful to yourself, and extend favour to others today.
… Grace sees the heart. Attitude is more important than ability. Always evaluate motives above performance.
Sometimes your best won’t be enough.
And that’s where grace comes in.