Recently, I noticed a friend getting frustrated at seemingly insignificant things. I noticed another retreating to be alone and pulling back from social life, and yet another struggling to focus on work. It can be difficult as a friend or a colleague to deal with random angry outbursts, or a cold shoulder, but something I’ve learned is not to internalize it. More often than not, there is something going on behind the scenes that we don’t see. We only get part of the story. There are breakups, deaths of loved ones, financial troubles, and other personal ‘failures’ that eat at us and infect our daily routines. When I had my first job, I went through something very painful, and I called my dad. I told him I was absolutely crushed and wanted to stay in bed all day. What he said stuck with me, “Everyone has their own stuff going on. What do you think people do when they are getting a divorce or going through a major crisis? How do you think they feel, having to go to work every day? People just have to push through and life goes on.” He wasn’t wrong, life does go on, and while people are in the thick of it they put on a good face and do their best to get through the day. Yet, bits and pieces of their broken hearts and exhausting emotions will come through in their actions, disposition, appearance, and many other noticeable ways.
And, instead of showing kindness when people most need it, we can often get irritated and say mean things about the person who is uncommonly agitated, or whisper judgment against the person who cries in the bathroom. “She is doing great at work, she needs to suck it up!”, “He is such a jerk and has no right to be angry”, “She has everything going for her, what’s her problem?”.
Luke 6: 31-36 says, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that…. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
It is so important not to judge people too quickly, and to try and give them the benefit of the doubt. In our world, people are all suffering personal demons, so instead of thinking they are bad or mean, or that they are unfairly annoyed or strangely solemn, try to take a step back and be more understanding. Love them even when their behavior seems unloveable. Give them space, and then also let yourself be a sounding board in case they need to talk. You’ll be surprised what you might hear if you stop to listen.