You know who they are. They’re the people you just don’t like. Maybe they’re obnoxious. Maybe they never stop talking. Maybe there’s just something about their personality that rubs you the wrong way. But they’re there. In all of their difficult glory – there they are.

This isn’t news. You knew people were difficult before you clicked on this article. And if you’re willing to be honest with yourself, you’re difficult sometimes too. We all are. We’re human.

Here’s the thing – being human is complicated! Daily we wrestle with complex emotions, work through pain, make hundreds of choices, and keep a dozen plates spinning. It’s a lot. (And it’s a lot with or without a pandemic, ridiculous levels of division, and/or any other high-level stress events!)

I’m great at giving myself grace. I recognize my stressors, know my limitations, and judge myself by my intentions, rather than my actions.

Let’s say I snap at a customer service agent or get passive aggressive with a friend. I don’t really think twice about it. In my very self-forgiving head, I know that it’s been a long day. I know I have other worries on my mind. I know that I’m just looking out for me. (That one hurts a little to type.) It was just a moment of lashing out that didn’t actually mean anything. Nevermind that I may have hurt someone’s feelings or behaved poorly, it was just a little thing. I was tired. I was stressed. I’m anxious about something else. It didn’t mean anything.

My point? When I’m a difficult person, I’m full of grace. I believe I’m worthy of compassion and immediate forgiveness. My hiccup in behavior was no big deal.

But when someone else snaps? That grace and forgiveness often goes right out the window. We’re appalled. Bent out of shape. Mad.

And over time, those graceless reactions begin to change our minds about people…..and begin to change us. We’re losing our compassion at an alarming rate and we don’t even realize it. (Other people are being less compassionate, sure. But us? Me? Nah.) We are acting and reacting in the stress of humanity – holding those around us up to standards we ourselves aren’t living out. We’re quick to understand the complexity of our behaviors and reactions – knowing everything buried underneath them. We know our pain. We know our stress. And we’re so so quick to forget that everyone else has a mountain of pain, fear, and stress buried beneath their actions and reactions too.

As a society, we have never been more  over-stressed, overburdened, and under-encouraged. We need compassion now more than ever. We’re willing to give it to ourselves, but are we willing to give it to others? Are we willing to give it to others when they need it the most?