Illustration: Jen Troyer
The other day my daughter was working diligently on a drawing of a "bad guy," so naturally I asked why he was a bad guy. "He just is," she explained. "His parents named him Bad Guy because they had a lot of bad ideas. It's not his fault."
Isn't that so true, so much of the time? We never know why people are acting awfully. People forget to be uplifting and helpful and heart-swelling. They let the door slam in your face when your arms are full. They talk over you in meetings and steal the credit for your mumbled brilliance. They cut you off in traffic and then shoot you dirty looks as if your existence were an inconvenience, causing you to fight the temptation to psychotically follow them for the rest of the morning...um, right? But, as Plato preemptively paraphrased my preschooler: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." It's the mantra to remind you that all these people who are being crummy, they are just people, just flawed, sad, happy, yearning, scared, exhausted, beloved, loathed, lonely people. Who knows, maybe your terrible coworker's parents just had a lot of bad ideas and accidentally taught her to be terrible.