by Sylvia Gaston
There is a phrase being quoted on social media. It is credited to author Wendy Mass and says:
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
This sentiment is a good one that I’ve given a great deal of thought to. It has actually helped me with my (sometimes) bad attitude toward others.
There are certain things about people that drive me crazy such as when people are impolite or demonstrate entitlement. Some examples are when I stop in the middle of the road to let someone cross and they don’t even look up or acknowledge that I didn’t zoom by them as I could legally do. Or when I hear a parent talking to their child in a loud, embarrassing, mean or demeaning way. I chalk it up to rudeness or a product of poor upbringing. This is the judgmental side of me that I’m not very proud of.
However, when I remind myself that I have no idea what this person is going through, my empathy kicks in and I find myself saying a prayer for that person instead. In fact, as I drive around town, going about my busy day, I find myself praying for a lot of people – strangers that look to be sad, homeless, or disabled. I pray for the skater boys and girls I see that they would be kept safe as they roll around town. I pray for the people I see who are too poor to afford a car for their groceries. I pray for the ones gathering cans and bottles to supplement their income. I pray for the ones that appear to be struggling with mental illness.
We’ve all been, or will go through, tough times – a crisis, a health scare, a traumatic event, or some other terribly difficult incident. When I found myself in the middle of a crisis, I became so inwardly focused, or in such a state of survival mode, that I became oblivious to others. I’m not sure I can even recall how I behaved.
I need to give others the same benefit of the doubt I would want because I don’t know what their life is like. Some people are really struggling – either temporarily or their entire life is a struggle.
Perhaps that’s why God wrote hundreds of verses in the Bible about how to treat others. A few of my favorites are:
“I want all of you to agree with one another. Be understanding. Love one another. Be kind and tender. Be humble. Don’t pay back evil with evil. Don’t pay back unkind words with unkind words. Instead, pay back evil with kind words. This is what you have been chosen to do. You will receive a blessing by doing this.” – 1 Peter 3:8-9 (NIRV)
“If possible, live in peace with everyone. Do that as much as you can.” – Romans 12:18 (NIRV)
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second most important command is this: ‘Love your neighbor the same as you love yourself. These two commands are the most important.” – Mark 12:30-31 (ERV)
Jesus even simplified it for us when he said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Luke 6:31 NIV)
Lastly, I’m reminded by Wendy Mass’ phrase about how callous, selfish, and mean our culture is becoming. I want to be counter-cultural to that. I want to try to be kinder to others than they deserve. I want to be part of a solution in the midst of a generation that is sometimes foul-mouthed, heartless, or looking for someone to take advantage of.