While sitting in my car waiting for the light to turn green, the car behind me honks the moment it does. Perhaps he was in a hurry, or he thought I was texting and not paying attention. He probably doesn’t know that I just had an injection of medicine 40 miles from home, like I do every week, which causes me to be excruciatingly uncomfortable, therefore moving and reacting a little slow.
Then, after ordering my coffee at Starbucks, the cashier seems frustrated with me as I fumble through my wallet, because the pain I’m in can be so distracting that it’s hard to focus.
And at the gym, I move slowly through a workout and appear less driven or competitive, though I’m really mentally wrestling with the fact that my fitness isn’t up to par with where it was when I was healthier.
I don’t say these things to gain sympathy. I don’t want that, for many reasons; one of which is that everyone has something going on. Some issues are more critical than others, though conflict magnitude is relative to the person. Personal struggle is a universal emotion: death of a loved one, medical issues, break-ups, financial insecurity, the list goes on. At some point everyone is plagued by being seriously upset about something, rightfully so.
Take a moment to think about how you would treat someone who just shared with you that they’re having a hard time. Then, picture how a loved one spoke to and consoled you during a rough period. A gentle tone, soft embrace, compassion and selflessness are probably a few characteristics that you just envisioned.
So if we all have been through a challenging time, thus empathizing with how incredibly difficult it is, why wouldn’t we treat everyone like we understand them? Naturally, each person you encounter is not always emotionally drained due to their current situation (thank goodness!), but think back to the traits you appreciate in both a confidant and random strangers when you’re struggling. What if you treated each person you meet with those same qualities, regardless of what’s going on in their life? What is the worst that could happen if you treated every individual like you sincerely cared about them?
Next time I’m at a light, and the person in front of me doesn’t go right when the light turns green, I won’t be so quick to honk my horn. Maybe he’s on Facebook and should be looking at the road, but maybe his little boy is sick, or he just lost his job. My honking gesture won’t make him a better driver if it’s the former, and will make him feel worse if it’s the latter.
Take a few minutes today to consider how you could treat people more the way you would like to be treated, whether it be your best day or your darkest hours, because we all experience both.
CrossFit Games athlete and entrepreneur Jason Khalipa recently said during a podcast interview that after seeing his daughter receive Leukemia treatments in the ICU, surrounded by other toddlers fighting for their lives, nothing really ever seems that bad. The California traffic, crowds, and daily inconveniences, really seem so insignificant comparatively. He suggested we all calm down, “life is good, be easy.”