The Unseen Battles We Fight

And other audacious measures of being human

Mar 26, 2019

Life Kindness Humanity Compassion
two young girls hugging while walking side by side

Photo by Andrea Tummons

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

— Wendy Mass

What battle are you currently fighting that no one sees? I often have a version of this thought when walking around and someone passes me by. I’m curious about the struggles that person is going through. The troubles that keep them up at night. So much of our battles are hidden from others and go unseen, sometimes even from those closest to us.

We all walk around bearing a weight on our shoulders that others know nothing about. A recent divorce, a job loss, a health diagnosis, a broken relationship, a broken heart. Sometimes I honestly wonder how we manage to make it out of bed. The weight can become unbearable.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. — Galatians 6:2 (NIV)

We were meant to help carry each other’s hardships. There is nothing more human than that.

I am amazed at how little it takes sometimes to lift the weight of another, if only by a little bit — a listening ear, a smile, a hug, a word of wisdom. We just want to know we are not alone in our struggle. And that there is a light somewhere at the end of the dark passage we are in.

If there was a way to say to someone I don’t know that looks distressed— “I see you, I admire your courage to keep going, you are stronger than you think” — without coming across as a creepy stranger, I would do it on the daily. People need to hear that. Sometimes I want to reach out and give them a hug. And sometimes the pain I see around me is enough to make me want to curl into a ball and escape. I feel too much.

We aren’t here to save one another; we are here to hold space for each other’s unraveling.

We are to remain the loving witness when someone is falling apart, ready to help shine a light on the places within them where their own strength lies. I haven’t fully figured out how to do that myself, but I’m pretty sure it begins with love and ends with love. Everything in-between is just made of compassion, oceans full of compassion.

There is a saying I have created to remind me of this notion that everyone is going through something, whether I can see it or not, and hence to be kind: extend grace. The Uber driver who is not in the mood to have a conversation and looks pissed off even before you step inside — extend grace. The mother who looks exhausted and yells at her 4-year-old in the canned fruit aisle — extend grace. The loved one that, once again, pushes your button — extend grace.

I think we have become so quick to judge and jump to conclusions about others. We are so impatient with their mistakes (and our own). It is as if we can no longer tolerate our own humanness. Let us not forget the audacity it takes to live a human life, and live it well. Let us not forget that most likely, this other person is doing the best they can in this moment with what they know and are capable of. Let us remember that we are no less guilty of making mistakes, and no more worthy of love and belonging.

We all have burdens we’re carrying, battles we’re facing. Whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. Some heavier than others, sure. But the heaviness comes and goes and hits us at different times in our lives. And we can be deeply affected by the weight of other people’s battles, especially loved ones. When we share the burden of another, sometimes that alone is heavy enough for a lifetime.

We may not have much else in common. But this, this is the plight of being human. John 16:33 confirms that “in this world you will have trouble.” Let us at least honor that in each other. There is no harm in extending grace where it’s needed. Or in practicing a little bit more patience with others. Or thinking they are probably going through something really difficult as we speak. Because chances are, it’s true.