We all make mistakes, and a mistake I’m sure we all have made is to inadvertently hurt someone else. Be it with simple words gone wrong, letting someone down, an argument, or your actions upsetting people, unfortunately it happens, as much as we never want to hurt others, especially those we care about. Sadly they are often the ones we can hurt the most, because they care the most. Often we don’t even realise we are hurting them at the time. It obviously feels terrible to realise you have hurt someone, and the guilt can be consuming. But this doesn’t make us bad people. We are only human, imperfect and flawed. You can still be a compassionate, caring and kind person and have hurt other people without meaning to. As long as you are sorry, it’s okay.
However, I’ve noticed that when you are a person who says that compassion is important to you, and that you try to be kind and caring, other people can be very quick to judge when they realise you have hurt someone, or perhaps hurt them. It’s as if they hold you to a higher standard than someone who doesn’t talk of how important it is to be compassionate. So if for a moment you’re not, they might accuse you of being uncaring or unkind, or even a hypocrite, that you don’t practice what you preach.
They almost expect you to always be kind and good to other people. But as much as we try, no one can always be kind and good, we all have bad days and bad moods say things hastily and make mistakes. And that’s okay. You can’t always be consistent, that would be rather impossible, and probably boring. You can’t be a selfless saint; sometimes you have to do something that might result in someone else being upset. One mean action doesn’t make you an uncaring person. You are still kind, just in that moment you weren’t. But we can apologise and learn from our mistakes.
I have been guilty of this. Once a close friend hurt me, completely without realising, and I do understand that she was in a tricky situation and just handled it badly. But it really hurt at the time. She is an absolutely lovely, kind person, but in my upset I thought, “she always talks about how important it is to be compassionate, and yet she’s hasn’t behaved that way, she hasn’t thought about my feelings.” But it’s not fair to write someone off as not being compassionate just because of one mistake, one instance of hurt. Looking back, I think she was thinking about my feelings, she just didn’t handle the situation in the best way. We don’t always get it right, and that’s okay. We forgive and move on. We learn.
Another personal anecdote: once someone told me that I simply wasn’t a compassionate, caring person. This really cut me deep because, in case you couldn’t already tell, these are qualities that I really value. They said I almost pretended like I was, for example by saying I cared about people involved in issues like the refugee crisis, but that in my life I didn’t actually treat people very well and that I didn’t care about them. That they can think this of me hurts a lot, and I felt terrible, desperately hoping it wasn’t true.
It isn’t true. I refuse to accept what they said to me. I know how much I care for the people in my life and I think it is safe to say most of those people would agree with me. I’m not going to believe one person telling me I don’t, especially when I know this person’s vision is clouded, because they are unfortunately someone I have inadvertently hurt before. They seem to have decided that because I made some mistakes, that I am an uncaring, unkind and selfish person. Apparently I am now classed as a Bad Person because I was confused and messy. It’s funny because they have clearly forgotten all the times I was caring towards them, listening to them talk about their problems for hours.
I know pain clouds judgement, and I am sincerely sorry for any hurt I have ever inflicted. But I am not a bad person because of it. I try to always be kind, but sometimes I am not, and I’m sorry for that. But in a way, I’m not sorry, because that is what it is to be human, and I will not suppress my true, flawed nature by glossing it over with constant ‘niceness.’ We’d go mad if we did this. Just because I actively talk about trying to be compassionate doesn’t mean that I don’t make mistakes like everyone else, like the fallible human being that I am. Being truly compassionate is to accept the flaws in the people we care for, to understand and forgive their mistakes when we are ready to.
But I’m not trying to excuse any wrongs I have done or any times I have been unkind, or to proclaim to the world what a kind person I am. Because as I said, I am not always kind, this would be impossible. But I do try to be, and I am also trying to be more apologetic and less defensive when I realise I have done wrong. I was merely using these personal points to illustrate that we shouldn’t be so quick to judge, and that a few mistakes or a situation badly handled doesn’t turn someone into a horrible person. There are always different perspectives and views to see things from, and perhaps we should try to more often see things from one other than just our own. If we can, we must be forgiving, understanding and compassionate towards other people’s mistakes, especially when they offer their apologies.