Although often attributed in memes to Plato, the source of this line is actually believed to be a minister of the Free Church of Scotland, Ian McClaren.
In any case, the sentiment rings true–especially during these pandemic times. It is easy to be judgmental, to make snap decisions about people’s behavior, to come to conclusions based on what is apparent rather than what is on the inside. This is human nature.
I know myself well enough to know that I am not the most patient person. I am pretty sure I inherited this from my parents–but especially my mom–who did not suffer fools lightly. I have made a concerted effort over the last few years to be a more patient, understanding, and less judgmental person. Interestingly, the pandemic has actually helped in this regard. Things that used to drive me crazy, now just elicit a *sigh* and a thought in my head: “oh well, things are tough; there’s a pandemic going on.” I am by no means perfect at this, but I am moving in the right direction.
McClaren’s words speak to this struggle. We never really know what struggles another person faces. I would like to think that most people are good and reasonable, and if they are acting otherwise it must be because something difficult is going on beneath the surface. I try to have compassion rather than anger, understanding rather than spite. To quote David Bowie, “It ain’t easy.”
What helps to keep me motivated is knowing that there are times when I am not at my best. I have had my struggles over the years, and yet as a rabbi, I had to put on my “game face” and be there for others. I knew that I was not running on all cylinders–and maybe others saw that too–but the kindness and patience of others (rather than criticism) got me through it. Just as othes were kind to me, I want to extend that kindness as well.
We all have our hard battles. No one is immune–especially during these difficult days. Let’s work to be kind. Not only is it good for others, ultimately it makes us healthier individuals as well.