Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. I first heard this quote by Plato a few months after my dad had passed away. I was over-the-top-frustrated listening to a 60 year old co-worker complain daily about her aging parents. They call her too often, she has to do too much for them, and all I could think was, I WISH I HAD YOUR PROBLEMS!! I really was growing to resent her because my own pain of not having any parents was fresh and raw. But then I read this quote and something happened. I was able to realize that it must have taken a lot out of her to take care of her parents. She was trying to work and had her own life to live, and yet on a daily basis was worried if they were taking their meds right, how they would get to doctor appointments, etc. She had a hard time going on vacation and their needs were often the cause of her cancelling plans. I thought it must be very similar to having small children and arranging daycare, consulting doctors for them, and praying every day that they are ok while you have left them alone. I was able to see that while her battle was different than mine, she was suffering too. I was able to completely shift my feelings for the situation and while I still missed my parents terribly, I was able to see that she was not free from troubles as I once had imagined.
Has that happened to you? Have you ever given thought to the judgments you make? The people that drive you crazy or that you envy; have you ever wondered what their real story is? Behind every lazy co-worker, beauty queen neighbor, do-it-all mom at school, or successful friend, there very well may be eating disorders, worry about finances, alcoholism, addiction to overspending, kids that hate them, ailing health, a poor self-image, marital stress, or abuse. Some of these are obviously more drastic than others, but I guarantee that they have gone through, or are going through things that might make you view them in a different, perhaps gentler, light. It doesn’t excuse bad behavior but fosters an understanding to be empathetic.
As I am writing this I think of President Obama, or any politician really. I don’t have to like their policies or agree with their decisions, but can you imagine how stressful Obama’s life must be? He is married to a very strong woman and I am sure that there are heated discussions had between them. He is raising two teenage daughters which is a stressor in itself. Every morning he has to wake up and make decisions that affect not only our entire country, but other parts of the world as well. While he took all of this on by his own freewill, I am inclined to empathize that he’s got a lot on his plate. At the end of the day, like most of us, he just wants to relax on the couch and unwind with his family.
I believe we are all just trying to get through another day; we just go about it differently. If we can see each other on that basic, very human level, it might be easier accept each other and get along.