Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Ian MacLaren

This era of the Coronavirus brings to stark light a recommendation that has always been useful: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

The original quote is actually[1]

“Be pitiful, for every man is fighting a hard battle.“

Published in 1897 and credited to Ian MacLaren (aka Rev. John Watson), Scottish writer and minister, born in 1850 and died in 1907.

And what is meant by “pitiful” is an older meaning from the last century: compassionate, merciful, tender.

How beautiful is this advice. Be compassionate, merciful, tender with each other, for everyone we meet is fighting a hard battle.

Whether a person is plagued with

  • financial insecurity,
  • relationship distress,
  • loneliness and isolation,
  • real or imagined health concerns,
  • worries about losing loved ones,
  • mistrust of public officials,
  • a dislike of where one lives,
  • issues with those one lives with,
  • parenting challenges, or
  • difficulties being with alone with ones own thoughts and resources,

this crisis is bringing whatever is THERE for each person to the absolute forefront.  The crisis presents a huge invitation to be with, and work through, the situation in which we each find ourselves, and the feelings that arise from both our collective experience and our individual situations. We are all fighting hard battles. Be merciful, compassionate, and tender with yourself, and with each other.

So that’s an individual act of agency. Being merciful, tender, compassionate.

And what is possible if we all are tender, compassionate, and merciful with each other?

And to what degree does the ability to be so with each other depend on our having done our work on ourselves? If we are hard on ourselves, shaming and beating ourselves up, how can we show up with mercy and tenderness for others? We have to practice mercy every moment, every day, great compassion where it is regularly needed, our own efforts to negotiate this dangerous and expansive, paradoxical world.

[1] Not Plato, not Robin Williams. Based on research from Quote Investigator. I highly recommend (and here is my sociological training) checking out sources as best you can before propagating any information.