People are frustrating. They fall short. They fail us. They do something that surprises or disappoints you.
But before you get angry, you have to remember: Everyone is going through something. Sometimes people are going through things and even they don’t know it.
NBA All-Star Kevin Love began suffering panic attacks several years into his career that seriously affected his game. Mental health is not something that gets talked about a lot in professional sports leagues, so for a long time, Love dealt with this private demon alone. It wasn’t until he began to share his story publicly that he discovered that other players battled with all sorts of mental health issues. Before that, it didn’t even occur to Love that he wasn’t alone, that other players also had issues.
We all do this. Our natural absorption inclines us to assume that we’re the only people who have a good reason to be tired, angry, frustrated, scared, or hardened. And so we rob ourselves of the empathy of others. We close ourselves off from the opportunity to become personally much more empathetic—both of which Kevin Love experienced when he started to share his struggle.
Seneca reminds us that a leader should grant pardon but ask for none—they should make excuses for other people (because of what they’re going through). Marcus Aurelius tried constantly to put himself in other people’s shoes—particularly those who sniped at him or made his life more difficult—to try to understand what made them act the way they did. Because he wanted to be able to forgive them, to offer leeway for their failings and to be able to make use of their strengths where possible.
This is all a much better alternative to walking around either beating yourself up inside because you’re the lone loser/weakling/head case, or assuming the worst of everyone and granting no forgiveness or tolerance for not being at your level.
Remember: Everyone is going through something we know nothing about. Remember: They might not yet even be aware of what’s affecting them, just as it took you a while to figure out what was troubling you. Cut your fellow humans some slack. Grant pardon, even if they struggle to do that for you in turn.