Paging Plato

“Be Kind; Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle”

I’ve seen this quote in multiple versions, with several different attributions. It often seems to get attributed to Plato, but it sounds a little too touchy-feely to have come from him. I did a bit of investigating and it seems that the quote has gone through quite a few variations, but likely originated with a nineteenth-century Scottish theologian named John Watson (psuedonym “Ian McClaren”).

Regardless of the origin of the quotation, is one of those sayings that helps me keep my patience when I find myself becoming frustrated with other people. If I have my battle with chronic illness—which so often remains invisible to others, sometimes intentionally on my part—then how many other people have their own invisible battles with trauma, abuse, mental illness, physical illness, etc? Every time I start to feel like someone is attacking me, or snubbing me, or ignoring me, I ask myself, “What’s going on in her life that might be affecting our relationship?” It’s so easy to jump to the conclusion that someone is attacking us out of spite, because they want to hurt us. In reality, it’s likely that they are so caught up in their own battles that they don’t realize how their actions affect those around them. It takes practice, but it is so much easier to react with kindness instead of bitterness. Suddenly some of the paranoia that comes from living in a hostile world just falls away. Most people are too caught up in their own heads to make the effort to hurt anyone. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

This post is part of the WEGO Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge (HAWMC). During the month of April I will be writing a daily blog post related to health and health activism, often inspired by or in response to a prompt. For more information on HAWMC, visit the WEGO Health blog.


  • Reading the Signs

    A big yes to all this, and well worth bringing to mind. But I sometimes feel there is a fine line between doing this and allowing oneself to be someone who absorbs the endless negative projections that fly around looking for a likely person. Of course we all do it, but some have more self-awareness than others and those who have less of it often give themselves great license to abuse kindness.

    • Megan

      I absolutely agree with you on this. I think there are certain people who wear out their “benefit of the doubt” privileges and go on my “toxic people to politely disengage with” list. I think things definitely get more complicated when it comes to people who are very close, and/or those unpleasant people whom one is obligated to deal with due to various circumstances (bosses, family, coworkers, etc).

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