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Be Kind. Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle

Updated: Mar 2

Most everywhere I look this quote or some variation of it is attributed to Plato or Philo or some other ancient Greek. Some sites recently attribute it to Ian Maclaren, but I don’t want to talk about the provenance of the quote, but I do want to mention its applicability.


Be kind, you do not know the suffering others keep quiet.

For me, the applicability will be about my writing.

Every writer should have one or more writing groups. I have one, in addition to more in depth exchanged reads with beta readers. It is a place where you send your writing, and someone reviews it. They say what works for them and what doesn’t. Different people in the group will comment on different levels, some offering only beta reading impressions, or brief notes if sentences stand out to them as strange. Some people will offer grammatical changes and details.

 

I am not the best grammarian, so I tend to stick to impressions and flow and understandability.

 

This week I offered comments to a writer in the group noting several sentences that did not work for me, and several ideas throughout the piece which did not stick the landing for me. What I received back was a diatribe of nearly 1,000 words of content, explaining that I am not a real scientist, therefore my opinions on science fiction are not relevant, that I do not know how to edit, or read carefully, and that clearly, I have no idea how to be an editor, and they found my opinions to be not useful at all. He carried on about how he belonged to a better, second professional writing group, and that I was the lone voice who didn’t think his work was wonderful. All told it was aggressively written, and felt like verbal self-defense.

 

Normally I would say this is an individual who does not understand that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. They can disagree with me. They are always welcome to. I would also say that even if we don’t agree with our editors, the editors are right. If they say, “A sentence confused me.” Then it did. You can feel it doesn’t need revision, and decide you are willing to lose a certain number of readers at a sentence, but that doesn’t invalidate their stance that it confused them. Normally … I wouldn’t care. These are like coworkers, who help me along my writing journey as I am hoping to help them along in theirs.

 

Today is not normally.

 

This week my beloved pet died. This week my mother went into the hospital, without guarantee of survival. This week my wife and I are living out of suitcases. This week I have external deadlines that won’t move and don’t care about those losses. This week I am short on sleep, and overworked. This week a single person who is nearly a stranger, questioned my ability to read, the validity of my career, and every skill I have, because they had a moment of hurt feelings, lashed out, and hurt me in return… surprisingly badly.


They never stopped to consider that I am fighting my own battles as I am sure he is. I will not speak with this individual again, so no further interactions will be forthcoming. And in a few days, I will be fine as I return to a more even keel, with support from many colleagues, friends and my wife who know me well, and know what I am actually capable of. But for a few days the hurt lingers and adds to the pile.


We will all go through life hurting other people. Me, you and even my very kind wife. We will do it by accident, and we will do it on purpose. It cannot be avoided. But we can try to mitigate it. We can try to sometimes ask ourselves if we are doing it on purpose. How will this email, this conversation, this interaction impact the person in front of us? Will they come away worse for it? Am I tearing them down because I cannot build myself up? Will I be passing on my hurt, and then they pass it on, and pass it on, and pass it on… creating a less beautiful world as a result?


I’ll try not to.

You are fighting a battle. I am fighting a battle. Be kind. Sometimes be kinder than you think you need to be, or can be. The world needs it.

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