Who really said it: Everyone fights a hard battle

Social media has a tendency to always have certain quotes making the rounds. One of these quotes is the following:

"Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting an uphill battle."

Some say it is by Plato, the Greek philosopher, others attribute it to Philo of Alexandria, the first century AD Jewish philosopher. Recently, I even saw it attributed to Socrates.

All these attributions are false and anachronistic.

The quote is actually from a Scottish author and minister named John Watson, who wrote under the pseudonym Ian MacLaren.

According to Quote Investigator, a website that traces the origins and history of quotes, Watson first used the phrase in a Christmas message he sent to readers of The British Weekly in 1897.

He wrote, "Have compassion, for every man fights a hard battle." The word "compassionate" here means "compassionate" or "merciful," not "pathetic" or "despicable." Watson later expanded on this theme in a book he published in 1903 under his real name titled The Homely Virtues. In a section on "Courtesy," he wrote:

"This person next to us also has a hard struggle with an unfavorable world, with strong temptations, with doubts and fears, with wounds from the past that have been skinned, but which hurt when touched. This is a fact that we must not forget, no matter how trivial it may be. Kindness can never be wasted. If it has no effect on the person for whom it is intended, it must have an effect on ourselves."

One example that has remained particularly well in my memory was the fall of a man who had clearly drunk more than was good for him. It was many years ago, and I was on my way home from school at noon with a classmate when, at the train station, a man reeking of alcohol stumbled up the stairs and eventually tripped. It wasn't a particularly bad fall but his burlap bag rattled and clanked. He struggled to get up, so I helped him briefly and watched him for a moment to make sure he made it upstairs to the train. Before me and the comrade continued on to our track. In an extremely disparaging tone, she said she would not have helped someone so disgusting and that the man should be ashamed of himself. I got angry and somewhat brashly gave her to understand that she should not judge someone whose fate she did not know. Who knows? Perhaps the man had had one or more heavy blows of fate and in his despair or grief had sought refuge in alcohol. We soon changed the subject and the matter was settled. In the meantime, however, I realized that I had forgotten something important:

I didn't take into account that my classmate had probably reacted that way for a reason. She had probably had some experience with people with alcohol addiction and I was so busy admonishing her about not being understanding and kind that I didn't even notice that I wasn't showing her that.

Watson's quote reminds us how important empathy and compassion are when dealing with others. We never know what someone else is going through or what challenges he or she is facing in life. Everyone has their own problems and struggles, whether they are visible or not. Therefore, we should not judge others harshly or treat them unkindly. Instead, we should be gentle and respectful and try to help them when we can.

Being kind does not mean being weak or naive. It does not mean ignoring injustice or wrongdoing. It does not mean allowing others to take advantage of us or hurt us.

  • Being kind means being aware of our common humanity and dignity and treating others as we would like to be treated.

  • Being kind means being generous with our words and actions and offering support and encouragement when needed.

  • Being kind means being a positive force in the world and making it a better place for everyone.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post and learned something new. If so, please share it with your friends and family. And remember, be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting an uphill battle.

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