The problem with “they did the best they could”

the best they could

I’ve noticed a pattern among childhood trauma survivors. And that’s how quickly they rush to defend the parents who failed to give them what they needed.

Just today, I watched a recorded session of a woman describing the devastating impact of her parents’ emotional neglect. She quickly followed that up by insisting they would do anything for her, even give their lives.

Really? Yet, they couldn’t take a moment to listen to her express her emotions once in her life.

In response to this example of mental gymnastics, the coach (Kyle Cease) said all our parents did the best they could. But, I take exception to this hackneyed phrase and beg to differ.

A father who rapes his daughter did not do the best he could. A mother who subjects her son to narcissistic rages did not do her best.

And parents who ignored their child’s emotional or physical needs did not do their best, either.

There are parents out there who intentionally behave cruelly toward their children. They did their best to get away with appalling behavior and to fool others into believing they were someone they weren’t.

But they did not do their best as parents.

Their efforts went into protecting themselves, not their children. And now those adult children do the job for them (and some coaches echo the lie).

Where “they did the best they could” starts

the best they could

As children, we need to believe our parents care about us because the alternative is too frightening. If they don’t love us and are unfit to parent us, that means our lives are at stake because we depend on them.

So, we invent a story of our parents being good and us being bad. We blame ourselves for their poor parenting and cling to the belief that they really love us and “did the best they could”.

Encouraging us to believe this is another way society lets abusers off the hook.

If your first inclination when addressing the effect of abuse on your life is to protect your parents, I urge you to break that pattern. True healing requires an honest account of what happened to you, not excuses and justifications for bad behavior.

Spaces are now available in my private coaching container. If you’re ready for change and nothing else has worked, this program has proven transformational results. Learn more and save your spot here.

Share this