Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. - John Watson (aka Ian MacLaren)
What does that mean?
This is often misattributed to Plato and Philo, but is far more recent than that. It was also originally worded slightly differently, but this is good in modern English. See the ‘confirmed’ link below for more details on this quote’s history.
This quote makes more sense on a Monday afternoon, when everyone is on the way out of the building, headed home after the dreaded first day back at work (for those who work a traditional schedule). How does everyone look? There may be some who are excited about what they are doing after work, but most are just thrilled the day is over.
They’ve had a rough day, and fought a hard battle (or two), and are glad to be headed home. Is that the proper time to give someone a hard time, or should you have pity on them, and be kind? There is plenty of time later in the week to harass them about how well their team did over the weekend, right?
Why is being kind important?
This goes back to the golden rule. How would you like others to treat you? Now treat them the same way. Sound simple enough? In cold, clear logic, it is practically trivial to discuss. Practical application, however, can often prove problematic at best.
How often have you promised yourself that you’d be nice to (insert least favorite person) at the (insert social event you are both attending)? How well does that promise work out? Yeah, it’s easy to say that the other person started it, but still, you broke your promise, right?
So being kind is important to help you remain congruent, to help stop the vicious cycle of meanness and bitterness, as well as helping to raise the standard for those around you. It isn’t always easy, but I believe being kind is well worth the effort, even if we fail from time to time.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Being kind has no bounds. You can use it in any part of your life. You can pick things up, you can get things off the top (or bottom) shelf of the grocery store, you can move a shopping cart out of the parking space and walk it back to the cart corral. The list is truly endless.
What do you want to do? What is easiest for you to get started doing? What are you already doing? I imagine just answering the last question will amaze most people. Take a moment and grab some paper and write down a few of the things you already do to help others.
Most people are willing to hold open doors for people who need help, or are hustling to get in before the door closes. How about elevator doors, do you press the open button when someone calls out to hold the elevator? Several other ideas were mentioned a few paragraphs back. What does your list look like?
Now, consider what other areas of your life in which you could be kind. Is there something you particularly like to help do? I don’t get to do it every time, but I’m often asked by others to grab something off the top shelf at the grocery store. Easy enough for me, and it helps them. Kindness accomplished.
Write down an area or two you wish to work on, then brainstorm some ideas on what specifically you could do. Could you take a little time on your way into our out of a mall to open doors for people? How about just smiling at people as you walk by? There are lots of things, and the only limit is your willingness and your imagination. 8)
Finally, let’s consider the heart of this quote. How can you be kind, or at least as kind as possible (if the message you need to convey is other than kind) when dealing with someone who’s had a rough day? And as an aside, aren’t most days fairly rough for the average person?
There are different ways you can tell someone something unpleasant. If they need a shower, you could tell them they smell like something died, or you could suggest that the stress of the meeting got to them, and they should go ‘freshen up.’ Both statements should convey the idea, but one is much kinder than the other, right?
If you start thinking in this manner, and then start acting more and more in this same vein, you will find yourself a popular person in a fairly short order. And that can make the (minor) effort seem very worth while.