The lady stood in line at the grocery store. The associates knew who she was and was giving her a wide berth. Unfortunately, another customer got too close to her in the line. The cashier, who happens to be my wife, attempted to give him a silent signal with her mask-covered face. It didn’t work, and the lady finally found another target for her hate. And thus, unfolded the same weekly tirade at the grocery store. This lady is in a perpetual state of anger and doesn’t care who feels her wrath.
The easiest solution is to return hate with hate. If it were me, I would make a game of it and flood her with more sarcasm than she could handle. But is that the right course of action? Does this improve the situation, or is it only a severe case of pettiness? I know what I would do, and I also know what I should do. Sadly, would and should are not the same thing. In this case, I will have to consider the words of one of the great thinkers in history. What would he do?
What Would Plato Do?
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
Our antagonist in this story is angry. She is bitter. I cannot imagine the cause. But pouring gasoline on the fire is not beneficial to anybody. The battle she is fighting may be harder than anything I have imagined. Kindness may not cure her of her problems, but kindness is the answer. Thank you, Plato, for these words of wisdom.
Alec came home from camp one day a little upset. After some coaxing from my life, he finally admitted what was wrong. Earlier in the day, some girls called him ugly. On top of that, they said the art project he was working on was also ugly. For this eight-year-old, comments like that made him sad.
As an adult, the first thing I want to tell him is to not let it bother him. This is easier said than done. I know in some way it would bother me if those type of comments were directed toward me. Nobody wants to be called ugly. Nobody wants their work to be called ugly.
What is ugly?
In my younger years, I would compare ugly only in relation to superficial beauty. I might not ever have called someone they were ugly, but I know I have been guilty of thinking it. Could a creature of God really be ugly? Could they be born, body, soul, and mind, ugly? And who has the right to say that someone’s exterior appearance is uglier than they are? What if our standard of beauty of so superficial that we have completely missed the mark of what is uniquely beautiful? If we are not born ugly, then it would appear ugly comes from somewhere else.
We know ugly exists in this world. Its manifestations can be seen all around us. We make poor choices with our bodies that deteriorate us faster than normal. We close off and dull our minds to the extent that we cannot see beyond our own biases. We sin against our hearts and in order to not be disgusted with ourselves, rationalize those choices. In time we allow ugliness to creep into our lives. And the longer we allow ugliness to have its hold within us, the greater the chances it will eventually rear its ugly head and come out, affecting how others perceive us. We might not have been born ugly, but we can become ugly people in time.
“Any man can do harm, but not every man can do good to one another.” -Plato
When our ugliness comes out, it can have a negative impact on those around us. We all have that potential, and to use it as a weapon is an easy thing to do. We also have a choice to not weaponize our ugliness. We can choose nobler pursuits, such as acting in the best interest of the ones we encounter throughout the day. This is a beautiful thing. And the more we behave in this manner, the more beautiful we become.
You might not believe you have any power, but we all have some. Some have the power to influence millions. Others may only have influence in their own homes. All have the power to control their own selves.
Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power. –Seneca
If you cannot properly control the power you do have, why would having more power be of any benefit? Be a good steward of that which you are given and who knows, you may be worthy of wielding more in the future.
Jesus told a parable about the good steward (Luke 12:42-48). The steward is basically the master’s household manager. The master goes away and the good manager does what the boss wants him to do: take care of the business as if the master was there himself. This household manager is your dream supervisor. The one you want to work for.
The same parable talks about the unjust steward. That’s the joker whose subordinates all despise. He’s the supervisor we usually get stuck with, when we are in an organization with a disengaged leader. He abuses the power he has and the employees, the customers, and the reputation of the company all suffer. The bright side is that karma eventually gets these bad stewards.
The measure of man is what he does with power. –Plato
We are all stewards of the power we have been given. What we do with it is up to us. Good stewards of their power will find that more will be given to them. And the unjust stewards? In time, they will get what is coming to them. It sucks when they are over us, but we have to be patient. We can’t control what others do with their power, we can only control what we do with the power that has been given to us.
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. -Plato
It only takes a moment to take the focus off of ourselves and shift it to those around us.
The Virtue of Charity
Many view the act of charity as financial aid to the less fortunate. But charity goes beyond gifts of money. We can be charitable in our actions to those who need it. We can lend a helping hand to those who are suffering physically, mentally, and spiritually. How far can a kind smile, a kind word, or a kind act go? Sometimes these gifts go much farther than money.
So much evil that when exposed to the light, the vampire would burst into flames. He can only operate in the dark. Only in the shadows can he conduct his nefarious activities.
I used to love reading the vampire books. From Bram Stoker to Anne Rice, they were really enjoyable reads. The villains were glamorized (something I no longer find appealing) and at times really didn’t seem so evil. But vampires are evil. They can’t do what they do in the broad daylight. Operating without cover risks them to exposure, and that is one thing they are afraid of.
Vampires are afraid of the light, but what would cause a man to be afraid of the light? Why would be there the need to hide in the cover of darkness? Men hide in the dark when they don’t want to be seen. What are they hiding? What are we hiding? What am I hiding?
To come into the light is to declare that we have nothing to hide. To live a completely open life, one without shame, should be the ideal for the just individual. It may not be possible to live completely free of error. But once the errors are realized, we should acknowledge them and make them right. To cover them up is to recede back into the darkness. The longer we stay there, the more likely we will become afraid to come back out into the light.
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. -Plato