“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” Anon
This quote resonated with me. A close family member recently lost her son, aged 25. She and the rest of her family are devastated. This is a private loss. The family of cricketer Phil Hughes is suffering the same grief; however they are doing so more in the spotlight.
In the Victorian era, a person grieving the loss of a close loved one would wear a black arm band for many weeks or months as a signal to everyone of their loss. This is very different today, with the commonly worn ribbons of different colours, worn to show solidarity and support for a cause. The black arm band of yesteryear signified a very personal loss and as such anyone that person encountered understood the situation. They also were able to understand the grieving person’s behaviour. Behaviour that without that signal, might have been read as aloof, irritable, over emotional or any number of perceived unfriendly behaviours.
Think about all the people you interact with in any given week: your colleagues, clients, suppliers, your boss, the office cleaner, the CEO. Very often we have little or no idea of the challenges in their lives, the battles they are fighting that cannot help but impact on the behaviour they bring to work. How quick are we to judge that behaviour? How different would it be if we knew and understood their current battle? My guess is that we would change our judgment almost immediately.
This year I have seen a glimpse of some of those battles: depression, messy separations, money pressure, cancer, rebellious adolescents, Parkinson’s affecting parents, death, suicide, chronic pain, unrequited love…..the list goes on. And very few of the people that interact with them would know. And how could they. It would be inappropriate sharing to lay it all out there to everyone you meet.
But let’s acknowledge that life for all of us at times is very tough. You will have had them and there’s a good bet that a reasonable number of the people you meet today will be battling something. So as the quote says, be kind; you can only guess at what they are battling.