Apparently, the original version of this came from Plato - or Philo, depending on who you ask: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." James M. Barrie added the "try to be a little kinder than necessary" part, so today what's floating around is a kind of hybrid.
However it's said, whoever said it, it's certainly true that many, many people are going through nightmares we can't even imagine. Right now, my nephew's fiancee is going through yet another bi-polar psychotic break, despite faithfully following her medication regime, watching carefully for any sign of a manic episode and doing everything she can to avert one. She's a beautiful, kind, intelligent, wonderful person - when she's not "off her nut." When she's in the grip of mania, she's frustrated and angry and rages at all who are close to her - which means my nephew, her (adult) daughter, her family and friends... So, during the day while he's out working, trying to function like a "normal" person, his mind is coming from "crazy" in the morning, and knowing that more crazy is waiting for him at home.
A dear friend had to deal with her husband's rapidly advancing MS, knowing that every day when she came home from work, he might be on the floor, having fallen and hit his head. Or that he might have dropped a lit cigarette and set the place on fire. Not long after his condition became so bad, she placed him in a convalescent hospital for the rest of his life. Although there was really no other option, it broke her heart, and it seems she still feels a bit guilty about it, though what else she could have done, I don't know.
I know, now, so many people who seem ordinary on surface, who are heroes at home. My OCPD boyfriend cared for both his aging parents in the last years of their lives, right down to the spoon-feeding and changing of diapers. I know people balancing the needs of their teenagers with the needs of caring for their own aging parents. People who are battling cancer and still volunteering to care for abandoned pets.
I got a small taste, myself, of what it's like to try to behave "normally" when it feels like your life is disintegrating. During my first six months of my then-new job, my boyfriend would express horrible jealousy. I had tried to integrate my work and home life, by telling stories when I got home about the people I worked with, about the kinds of things I did during the day. I thought this would help make him feel comfortable and part of my life away from him. Instead, it had the exact opposite effect. Whenever I was five minutes late coming home, he would accuse me in the crudest terms possible of having an affair with my boss and/or co-workers.
I was already stressed out and exhausted, beginning the new job, learning all kinds of details from how to use the phone system, to what the protocol was for staff birthday lunches, outside of the demands of the actual work. Leaving work, instead of going to a safe refuge where I could relax and unwind, home became a place where the stress was stepped up. Sometimes I felt so trapped and miserable I fantasized about slitting my wrists, thinking how wonderful it would be to watch all the pain and drama flow down the drain...
Obviously, I didn't take it that far, or my typing would be a lot worse, lol! I survived the stress, I learned better ways to make my boyfriend feel unthreatened by my job (learning about OCPD was the key - you can't treat people with this disorder "normally.")
But I remember those days, and think about my friend, my nephew, and others in like situations, and try to give people the benefit of the doubt when they take my parking spot, or cut me off on the freeway, or are brusque or rude when I call customer service. Maybe they're not just jerks, maybe they too are having an Extraordinarily Rough Time.
And I try to treat everyone I meet with dignity, respect and kindness.
~How did you "cut someone a break" today, and assume they might be going a rough time, instead of just being a jerk? Did you take time to be kind to yourself, today? Leave a comment and let me know.