There are some things in life that we can’t take back but that shape our characters.
Like how we treat people.
For various reasons, the past couple of months have been rather challenging. We all go through different seasons in life, and some points are more difficult than others. The problem is, you can’t always tell that someone is enduring hard times simply by looking at him or her. But the way we treat people can greatly impact them.
I remember a few weeks ago when it had been one of those days when it seems like everything was going wrong (seriously: I had marked with purple pen on my white shirt, burned my finger with a curling iron, accidentally texted completely the wrong person, and found out some bad news from a friend), and then a man who didn’t even know me made me want to cry. (And, as I’ve said many times before, I don’t cry often.) I was in my own little world, I guess, and I pulled into a parking space so I could get some froyo. As I was walking in, a man who was going into a sandwich shop next door started chewing me out. He told me he was signaling for the spot where I parked, that I was just a stuck-up wannabe princess, and that the world doesn’t revolve around me. He then not-so-kindly reminded me that I need to learn to be considerate of other people.
He was fuming. Did I mention I was having a horrible day? Normally I would not have been that bothered by his mean words, but this particular day was an exception. I wanted to crawl into a hole–the kind of hole where only selfish, inconsiderate princesses go.
I’m not sure if it would have made any difference in his response to me accidentally stealing his parking spot if he knew how crazy things had been for me lately. Maybe he was just having a really bad day, too. Whatever the case may be, he made me feel the size of a kernel of corn. The late Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
And she’s so right.
I don’t remember everything my teachers said when I was in school, but I remember which ones made me feel like I mattered and that I had potential in life; I don’t remember what my mom said to me when I fell and scarred my knee on an epic bike ride, but I remember how wonderful she made me feel when she made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that helped me forget about the pain; I don’t remember everything my sister said to me when she gave me the best pep talk in the world, but I remember she made me feel better and made me laugh; I don’t remember every single thing the guy who gave me my first kiss said to me right before, but I remember how special he made me feel in that moment.
But we also remember the way we feel when those emotions aren’t so positive.
The past two days one word has popped up in more than one place and echoed in my mind and heart: compassion. And everyone needs it. I can’t say I’m completely kind to people 100 percent of the time–I mean, we are all human, so we are obviously going to fail once or twice or way many more times than that. But we can at least try. You never know what people are going through. Maybe the stranger who upset you is having a really bad day or in some very difficult season in life. Compassion. Maybe your coworker who said something sassy to you is having some family troubles at home. Compassion. Maybe the employee at the restaurant who didn’t give you five-star service is struggling just to pay rent. Compassion. Maybe the girl who was walking too slowly in front of you when you were in a rush is going through a heartbreak right now and isn’t that concerned with hurrying to the next place. Compassion.
Being compassionate doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover–it just means you are more caring and loving toward others. I mess up so much that it’s ridiculous. Yet, for some reason, God still loves me and shows me endless compassion that I definitely don’t deserve. He does the same for you, too, whether you know it or not. And it’s certainly not about deserving it, so we can’t justify not showing another person compassion because he or she doesn’t deserve it.
It’s about love–something that needs to exist more abundantly, anyway.