On a few occasions in life, I’ve been hit by overwhelming grief at the absence of compassion where ego is easy. I know, in my heart of hearts, that most people don’t mean to cause hurt or pain – they’re just not thinking past their point or motive or own needs. They forget, briefly or otherwise, the basic rules of humanity. Those who are Christian might call it the golden rule, but every culture and every person who’s ever been hurt by the words and actions of another can understand the importance of the tenet, “Put yourself in the other guy’s shoes”.
Yesterday, I heard some unsettling news. A man who was a friend of a friend (I know that sounds convoluted, but I didn’t know him personally and don’t want to name him for reasons you’ll understand shortly) – this man killed himself. He was a stock broker, so I guess you might already imagine the motives.
I happened to notice that it was also written up in the larger local papers, and clicked on the articles on one of the sites. It gave the basic facts, his name and where he lives, where it occurred and the assumed reasons he would have become so despondent. And then there was the section for comments.
Most were well meaning, but some, well some had to admonish how foolish it was to take ones’ life over money... some couldn’t put aside the judgment... and I get it, I do... But, all I kept thinking was, “Oh my God, I’ll bet his family is reading this. I bet they’re pouring through every comment and aching with every word.” And I doubt so much that the people who did comment even considered it. To them, it’s just an article in the paper. A faceless person they’ll never know. And I wonder if they would be so crass to say these things at his funeral, in the presence of his loved ones – and I wonder if they know they essentially did just that.
I am a huge advocate of freedom of speech, and I get that that also includes the things I don’t think should be said. But I think, on occasion, we need to remember that our words have impact. We have a responsibility to be compassionate. This economy is not getting better in a day or a week and there’s a very real chance that the changes coming will be long and arduous for a great many people. Nothing is insurmountable and I have a great deal of faith that whatever is coming, we can handle, that even the worst of obstacles can make way for the greatest of triumphs. But while we’re on the road, be kind. Not because there’s payment in it. Not to pad your reputation or help your own situation, but because it’s right.
Go out and do something nice today. Restore my faith in humanity, because I swear sometimes it’s lagging.