I wonder what kind of battle they are fighting today?

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” –Plato

Oh God. Not again.

I was young — brand new in my department at work — just trying to finish my projects for the day so that I could go home and read Twilight. I mean, priorities, right?

But there he was again.

That older co-worker. Much older than me. Every single time he passed by my cubicle he’d come over and start chatting. And chatting. And chatting.

He was one of those people who couldn’t pick up on social cues — who never knew when it was time to make a graceful exit.

He asked where I lived. I evaded the question.

He invited me out for a drink after work. No, thank you.

I couldn’t tell if he was lonely, bored, trying to get in my pants.

Bottom line: he had a weird personality, his judgment seemed off, and he was an unpleasant & selfish communicator.

Ready for the punch line?

A few weeks later, my colleagues and I learned that this man had a brain tumor.

Common symptoms caused by brain tumors? Personality changes. Impaired judgment. Communication problems.


To this day, I don’t know for sure if my former co-worker’s inappropriate cubicle banter was caused by his brain tumor. Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn’t.

What I do know is that everyone is fighting a battle of some kind.

It could be a brain tumor, a break-up, a blog post that got plagiarized or an unexpected bill.

Big or small, most of the time, other people’s battles are invisible.

We never see them, hear them, or learn the full extent of the struggle.

Still: the battle is happening.

We don’t have to let people off the hook for poor behavior, tolerate abuse, or let things slide, uncorrected.

But when we meet a fellow warrior on the battlefield of life, we can enter into that moment with compassion.

Instead of bitterly asking:

Why is my boss so stupid? Why is that guy so creepy? Why is that person driving so slowly? Why hasn’t so-and-so replied to my email yet? It’s been five whole days??!

Perhaps we can say:

This person is clearly struggling to [do their job / be punctual / maintain integrity / behave properly].

I wonder what kind of battle they are fighting today?