What does it mean to see the best in another? Alexandra Kuykendall shows us how to frame our thinking.
See the Best in Others Even When It's Hard
By Alexandra Kuykendall
August brought an event I’d been dreading for 19 years: we dropped our eldest daughter off for college. In my attempts to overthink and over prepare for this family milestone, I did what many moms do, I researched. I wanted all of the pro tips on how best to manage moving into dorms, having last conversations, and walking away from her without collapsing into a puddle of tears.
As I read blog posts and articles with titles like What Not to Say to Your College Freshman, one sentiment stood out to me: speak with confidence about your young adult when talking to others you meet on campus, especially if the conversation is happening in front of your student. Of course that made sense and yet when I read it I was struck that maybe that wouldn’t be my natural inclination. I was nervous for her and if I’m being honest, as a parent I carried both confidence and fear into this new situation.
I have been her mother through 2-year-old tantrums, middle school insecurities, and not-braking-as-quickly-as-I-would-like learning to drive moments. But with each phase of parenting, I’ve given her permission to grow and change. What good would it do anyone if when meeting her roommate’s parents, I talked about my daughter’s kindergarten separation anxiety? That would be silly because she is not the same person she was 13 years ago. She has changed.
Even if I have evidence in her 19 years of life to back up some of my doubts about this whole situation, my job was to launch my 19 year old, not my kindergartener, to college. My job as her mom was to speak confidence over her as she walked into these unchartered waters. I could be her reminder that she has what it takes to be successful in this new adventure.
I was implementing two practices here:
I was calling out, as in actually saying out loud, the good tools my daughter had to be successful in this next phase of her journey.
I was giving her permission to change.
As parents we are naturally bent toward offering our children a chance to do better. We not only give them permission to change, we expect them to.
What if we approached other people with that same level of grace? Let’s pause our “he never” or “she always” assertions. Walking into conversations with an open posture can set a different tone for our interaction. Sure, we can predict how others might respond in a given situation based on their past patterns, but do we then place expectations on people based on their worst moments? Do we assume they will bend toward the worst, not the best?
In Philippians 4: 8-9 we are told what to think on, or focus on, as we maneuver through our days. Sometimes the qualities on that list are not our default for those people around us.
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” (MSG)
The gift God gives us in free will is the ability to choose what we look for. It’s also the ability to change for the better. When we earnestly want to see the best in those around us (not the worst), we hone in on qualities we can celebrate and we give people enough space to grow over time. These are intentional decisions that we can implement when our feelings may be pushing us toward automatically going toward the worst. Once we see evidence of good in those around us, it becomes easier every time to believe the best in them.
Father, give me new eyes to see the person in front of me. Help me to see what is lovely, true, and compelling about this person so that I might celebrate how they are growing toward you. -Amen
Alexandra Kuykendall is the author of the newly released Seeking Out Goodness: Finding the True and Beautiful All Around You. Her other books include Loving My Actual Life, Loving My Actual Christmas, Loving My Actual Neighbor, and The Artist's Daughter. Alexandra is the National Network Director for Project 1.27, She is the cohost of The Open Door Sisterhood podcast. She lives in Denver, Colorado, with her husband, Derek, and their four daughters (when her oldest is home from college).