Sadness makes us truly selfish. “Never mind that,” we want to say, “what about me, me, my thoughts, my pain, what about me?” Hurt, anger, disappointment; they trap us in a fog of our own making. Someone who is hurting is stuck in an almost visible cloud of fog – they can’t see out clearly, to see the truth of other people’s behaviour, and they can’t hear clearly, to hear what people are really telling them. They can’t reach through it; everything they can perceive or understand is coloured and filtered by this fog. And the fog twists and tangles up their words when they speak, from what once seemed well-intentioned into unkindnesses; cruelty, sarcasm, dismissiveness, aggression.
I try and remember this: if out of nowhere someone behaves inexplicably hurtfully, it rarely has anything to do with me. It’s harder, sometimes, to remember to apply it to your own fog, and realise that you’re not seeing or understanding clearly because you can’t see past your own hurt. But it’s essential. Some people never manage it and get permanently stuck; what an extraordinary amount of hurt someone must have experienced, and how sad they must be, if they seem to be a truly unpleasant person.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Ian Maclaren (often misattributed to Plato)
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” – the Dalai Lama
“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies – God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” – Kurt Vonnegut