Today more than 1,000 bloggers are writing about what compassion means to them in an effort to flood the interwebs with kindness for a day. I’m proud to be one of that thousand.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
That right there is my favorite quote (attributed to both Plato and Ian MacLaren, but likely uttered by many others). It’s a phrase that I try to live by. Sometimes I fail at it. But I’d like to think that more often than not, I succeed.
It takes effort, for sure. It’s easier to make assumptions about people based on something they say, how they look, or what they’ve done. But unless I have real reasons to think someone is toxic and therefore a person I need to stay away from, I try to assume the best about people. Essentially, I try to be a compassionate person.
I challenge myself not to assume that the mom in expensive clothes with the perfect figure and hair and makeup, and who drove her kids to soccer in an expensive car, is a snobby jerk. I smile at her and make conversation. I don’t know what her battles are. And I’m sure she has them.
I don’t let myself assume that the kid at the park who has been difficult the entire time and causing a general ruckus is just a brat. Who knows what his battles are, and maybe his mom just needed a freaking break for an hour. I smile at his mom and try to make it evident I’m open to talking if she wants to.
I remind myself that my kids have their own battles going on in their heads, and try not to assume that they’re just being difficult because they want to push my buttons. I try to remember to not get mad right away. To ask questions. To dig deeper about what the bad attitude after a school day is all about.
And it’s hard. Because being compassionate is a choice. It’s not innate for most of us. It’s easier to judge and move on. But when I judge and move on, not only am I likely doing a disservice to the one I am judging, I’m doing a disservice to myself.
Assuming the worst about people puts me in a bad mood and makes me feel crummy. But when I assume the best and look at the world through compassionate eyes, life is a lot more pleasant.
I’d rather assume the person driving like a maniac on the highway and cutting people off has some real battles that he’s fighting. He isn’t driving like a jerk to be jerky to me — he’s likely driving like that because he has some big issues. Thinking that guy has some big battles he’s fighting makes it easier to let my frustration go and move on. Maybe that’s naive? I don’t know. But if it is, I’m okay with that. What’s the harm in making a kind assumption about someone I’ll never see again?
I know I have my own battles. And dealing with depression and anxiety can definitely cause some bad days. I think dealing with mental health stuff helps me to be more compassionate towards others. I know how hard things can be for me. So I try to think of others as I hope they’ll think of me on my bad days: Not as a horrible mother who just yelled at her whining kid in Target. Just as a mom who is having a tough time at that moment. And then maybe not only think kind thoughts about that harried mom, but smile some encouragement at her, too, because that’s the kind thing to do.
If we all thought the best of each other, wouldn’t life be so much better — for all of us?