How We Treat Others Is a Measure of Who We Are.

Covid broke our humanity. Covid crushed our compassion. Our treatment of each other has reached a low point. Possibly true, but it doesn’t have to be.

Sometimes, it feels as though forces have conspired to drive wedges between us, resulting in divisions that now run so deep, we wonder if we will ever bridge the gaping abyss. The result of these divisions is a world where many couldn’t care less how they treat others.

Studies indicate this behavior increased when so many aspects of our daily communication no longer needed us to be face to face. 

Yes, telephones have been around since the 1940s, but they were voice only. Most people understood tone matters, and because the line was open to both parties, civil discourse dictated that conversations were generally cordial or limited to a quick transfer of information. Meet you under the clock at four.

When cell phones first allowed texting, a whole new world opened up. You could say anything without seeing or hearing the other person’s response. Words that would never have been uttered in person could spew forth. Write, hit send, walk away. 

And we went downhill from there. On social media platforms, we could excoriate complete strangers in the cruelest way we choose. 

Distance and anonymity provided the perfect screen to hide behind. 

Then, along came Covid, and our treatment of each other plumbed a new depth. Stress soared, and face-to-face human contact broke down as never before in contemporary society. Virtual platforms allowed us to attend meetings and get-togethers but never show our faces. You could put anything in the “chat,” and if you chose, you didn’t even need to use your real name.

When we ventured out, we screamed at shop assistants, waved our fists (or worse) at other drivers, cut in line, and sometimes resorted to physical violence.

What on earth has happened to us?

Most of us would agree that regardless of how educated, well-traveled, well-read, or wealthy a person is, the real measure of who they are is how they treat others. 

I doubt I am alone when I say that witnessing someone ill-treat another person is usually a death knell for me in terms of that relationship.

Modern devices don’t come with a filter, but maybe they should! In the world of live public TV, a broadcast delay is hard-wired into all shows. If anyone says or does anything inappropriate, the delay gives the station time to clean it up before it hits our screens.

Our brains have the ability to act as filters, but so many don’t make use of the service. A famous American radio host, Bernard Meltzer, said: Before you speak, ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid. Pause before you speak or act.

When someone famous treats another person horribly, fans will often jump to their defense. You have no idea what they are going through. They don’t mean it; they were just ….

I agree that every person whose paths we cross is dealing with their own issues, and when we are aware of this, we try to be gentle in our interactions

Often, how we treat others reflects how we feel inside, but this doesn’t make it okay. Your battle—no matter how awful—does not come with a get-out-of-jail-free card. You don’t get to berate the bartender because your boss didn’t promote you.

If for no other reason than your own ends, be careful how you treat others. The person you mistreat today may turn out to be the exact person you need tomorrow.

The old chestnuts: a young guy barges in front of an older woman in the line, only to walk into his important interview to find her sitting at the desk. Or a woman cuts off a man in traffic only to find he’s the father of her daughter’s new boyfriend. 

Not all is lost or hopeless. We each have a choice in how we treat others, and as we move through our busy lives, we can remind ourselves:  How people treat you defines them, but equally, how we treat them defines you.    

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