Be Kind; Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle
Plato? Philo of Alexandria? Ian MacLaren? John Watson?
This blog post is based on a question that was posed at the wonderful blog used by the quotation expert Fred Shapiro who is the editor of one of the best reference works in this area: The Yale Book of Quotations. Fred Shapiro’s posts appear on the Freakonomicsblog.
Question: This question is from Glossolalia Black.
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
It is attributed to Plato on this little thing I have up in my office, but I was told by a friend that it wasn’t him.
Fred Shapiro replied “this sounds anachronistic for Plato by almost 2500 years” and theninvited readers to attempt to trace the quotation.
Philo of Alexandria is another popular choice when assigning attribution, e.g.,QuotationsBook credits Philo. Sometimes Anonymous gets the nod. QI was able to trace the saying back more than one-hundred years to its likely origin. The original aphorism did not use the word “kind”. Instead, another surprising word was used.
The citations below are a select subset in reverse-chronological order. A 1995 book of daily meditation topics contains an epigraph that credits the saying to a figure whose name does not sound ancient [PCM]:
Day 198: Charity
Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. –JOHN WATSON
John Watson is a relatively common name so this attribution is of limited help without further information. Continuing backward in time, in 1984 a newspaper in Seattle, Washington contains a quote that is somewhat similar to the target quote. In the following passage sympathy for fellow men and women is evoked because each is carrying a heavy burden [STM]: