What Lies Beneath

We all wear masks at times, sometimes to hide parts of our personality and other times it's to hide our pain. From the outside, we might seem ok, but beneath the surface we may be suffering debilitating emotional pain and stress. It is all too easy to judge people from what we see on the surface without really knowing the struggles they may be going through. It is essential that as human beings we learn to become patient, understanding, empathetic, considerate and reasonable when engaging with others.

Some people hide their pain very well but may actually be on the cusp of a mental or emotional breakdown, only requiring the smallest of negative interactions to lead to a massive collapse. When an individual becomes overwhelmed they may fall to pieces or possibly lash out aggressively; a sure sign of struggle beneath the surface.

I once heard a story which I believe is based on a real experience. The story goes-

There was a man on the subway with his 2 children, as he sat quietly his children ran around the carriage making noise and acting out. Other passengers started to feel annoyed with the man as he allowed his children to run around the carriage behaving poorly. One passenger eventually had had enough and decided to confront the man. "Why don't you get your kids under control?" The man replied, "sorry, we just came from the hospital, their Mother, my Wife, passed away earlier today, I will ask them to be quiet". The passenger immediately felt guilty for confronting the man and had wished he had approached the situation differently.

Whether this story is based on an actual event or not is irrelevant, what is important is to acknowledge and understand that- what we see on the surface, seldom reveals the true reality.

It is always best to assume that there may be more to what our senses allow us to see, feel or hear. When we are with family, friends or colleagues, who may be behaving in an odd manner, acting erratically or falling behind with tasks, we need to consider what we may not be seeing. Even when someone seems fine, we don't really know if they are, they may actually be on the very edge of what they can endure. It shows real awareness, restraint, discretion, wisdom and transcendence, to be able to step back from our reactionary behaviours, in order to approach a person who may be struggling, rather than reacting unreasonably.

The challenge is when we truly believe an individual to simply be difficult, lazy, slow, awkward, annoying, toxic or just plain rude. We may be right, maybe nothing is wrong and the person is simply a horrible human being, but until we can confirm it, assume there is more to the story.

When you are just about to attack or confront someone, consider what may lie beneath the surface. A more patient, understanding and empathetic world would almost certainly be a better world.