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“Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a tough battle.” — Philo Judaeus

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This quote is simple, yet very powerful.  It is about showing compassion and kindness to people even when they don’t deserve it.  We are so wrapped up in our own lives that we forget that others have challenges too.  I understand that we believe our challenges are the biggest ones there are until we talk with someone with even bigger challenges.  There is always someone else battling a bigger problem than you.

The Rude Waitress

I had the opportunity to experience a very rude waitress on my last trip to Jamaica.  We went to have lunch and were to be seated in her section.  When we asked for a specific table, she barked that we didn’t have enough people for that table.  The scowl on her face was not friendly and I couldn’t imagine it changing any time soon.  Our group of people decided to move to a different section because this lady was not being nice.  Quite frankly, she was being rude.

Thinking about it differently, we didn’t know what her day had been like.  Perhaps she just had a rough morning and would have rather taken the day off, but needed the money.  Perhaps her relationship just ended and she is carrying a heavy load.  Perhaps she was not feeling well and not allowed to leave work.  Any of these things could have been true.  We will never know.  

I am not trying to justify her attitude nor her rudeness.  It was clear, she was not happy.  I am just trying to show some compassion, because we don’t know what tough battle she could be fighting.  Perhaps we could have responded to her differently than moving to a new section.  Perhaps we could have given her a smile, a funny comment, or a simple act that could have turned her day around.  Again, we will never know.

“Things will be thrown at you and things will hit you.  Life’s no soft affair.”—Seneca

Life is hard and on one is immune.  I suspect we can all remember a time where we were angry and not tolerant of people around us.  Perhaps we were working and showed rudeness to customers.  Perhaps we could have used some consideration from those around us.  Perhaps we were fighting our own battle that no one knew about.  Seneca said it best, “Life’s no soft affair.”  We will all experience tough battles in our life.  It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, black or white, young or old.  We all experience challenges in life.  Maybe we can make those challenges easier for someone.

How To Make It Easier

You can make it easier for the person who is being mean or rude simply by dropping your own ego.  By letting go of the offense you just experienced, you can avoid adding more stress to someone who is already having a bad day.  I know it is tough to walk away from someone who was just rude to you or treat you with respect.  Why should you respect their feelings when they are not respecting yours?  The simple answer is capacity.  Not everyone has the capacity for forgiveness, but we have the ability to grow that capacity through self-discipline.  We can learn to be more accepting of other people’s limitations and not allow their limitations change how we respond.  Why would we want to add to someone’s bad day?  We wouldn’t, so don’t.

As I mentioned earlier, we can show compassion for this person by giving them a smile, a funny comment, or simply a “Have a nice day.”  These simple acts don’t cost us anything, but could have the power to turn someone’s day around.  I believe that if we have the ability to improve someone’s day, we are obligated to try.

Final Thoughts

We are often too blinded by our own battles and challenges that we forget that others have their battles too.  No, we can’t solve everyone’s problems, but we can avoid adding to them.  If someone is rude to you or disrespects you, you have a choice.  You can add to their bad day, while simultaneously hurting your day, or you can drop the ego and show compassion.  Understand that we all have different capacities for forgiveness and for handling problems.  It may be that this person you are dealing with doesn’t have the capacity you have, and is struggling.  Be nice to them.  Wish them a good day and go about your way.  If someone is being mean or rude, it is a sign that they can’t handle what is on their plate at the moment.  We don’t know what it is, but we definitely don’t want to add more to it.  Let your ego go.  Let the situation go.  Wish them a good day.  Show them a simple act of kindness and compassion.  They will be better for it and your capacity for compassion just got stronger!!! 

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