Now look, don’t get me wrong. I realize that I might sound a little silly saying that because I am so lucky and so fortunate in so many ways.
But it’s easy to see someone’s life over Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat and just assume that her (or his) life is perfect. I fall into this trap when I see people on social media taking exotic vacations, eating out at fancy restaurants, or buying gorgeous new homes. But none of those things tells that person’s whole story.
I never thought that someone might look at my social media presence and think my life is all roses. I had an old friend from high school message me on Facebook a while back. She told me that she was so jealous of my life — she remarked that I looked beautiful in my wedding photos and had this great husband and wonderful life.
What My Selfies Didn’t Say
Maybe that’s what it seems like on the outside — that my life is easy; that’s it’s perfect and problem-free.
But what Facebook didn’t show her are the times I’ve had to curl up on the bathroom floor in the fetal position because I was in so much pain from my chronic stomach problems. She didn’t see the time that my husband had to take me to the E.R. in the middle of the night because my stomach ache was so severe that I started shaking uncontrollably. She didn’t see all the tears I’ve shed or all the prayers I’ve whispered as I fought the urge to just give up.
She doesn’t know about all the times every day I look in the mirror and think my nose is too big. She doesn’t know that the medications I’m on make me tired and more prone to weight-gain. She doesn’t know that sometimes I close my eyes when I get on the scale because I’m too scared to look at the number. She doesn’t see the look on my face or feel the sinking of my heart when I put on my old favorite pair of jeans to realize that they don’t fit anymore.
My Instagram story never features my panic attacks. It doesn’t offer a glimpse into the debilitating fear I sometimes feel or the irrational paranoia that flashes through my mind when I read the news. I didn’t do a live Facebook video when my husband forgot to call me when he got to work, resulting in a full-on meltdown on my end as I thought about him laying in a ditch somewhere. (Yeah. I wish I was joking, but that’s honestly the scenario my mind conjured.)
Behind the Filter
But that’s just it: she doesn’t know how irrational I can be or how emotional I sometimes get over the most trivial things.
She has no idea. To her, my life looks great: I’ve got a husband, two dogs, and a white picket fence. (Okay, it’s actually brown and …. not-pickety. But just roll with my metaphor here.) This girl has absolutely no clue about the struggles I deal with every day.
Just like I probably don’t know about the problems you’re having.
Elder Henry B. Eyring quoted someone he served with as saying, “When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.”
I don’t think he meant like, “Half the people you meet are actually wanted criminals, just a heads-up. Hope you can guess right!” Not that kind of trouble, though that would be incredibly intriguing if you were able to move past the crippling horror of half the people you meet being bad news bears.
He meant that you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. You don’t know what’s really happening in others’ lives. Maybe a friend’s marriage is struggling. Maybe a co-worker’s mother has cancer. Maybe that guy who cut you off is dealing with severe depression or the lady that is taking 80 years at the cash register actually has horribly painful arthritis.
We don’t know. We don’t know what’s going on in someone’s life currently or what’s happened in their past. All we can do is give people the benefit of the doubt because maybe they’re going through or have gone through something really difficult — even if social media makes it look like their life is perfect.
The purpose of this post isn’t to be like, “Poor me, my life stinks!” because it doesn’t. Yes, there are things about it that are really stressful and hard and painful, but all around, I’m so grateful for the life I do have.
What I hope this post says is, in the words of my favorite quote by J. M. Barrie (a.k.a. the creator of Peter Pan), “Always be a little kinder than necessary.”
My hope is that you and I both, next time we’re on the line with a customer support service agent whom we want to smack, will remember that we don’t know what’s going on in that person’s life. We don’t know why the cashier is being rude or why the flight attendant is snippy.
But we’ve all been there: a little rude, a little snippy, a little exhausted, and a whole lot done.
So remember that everyone has a life. Every person you meet is just that: a person. Assume the best of people. Know that no one’s life is perfect and that everyone is struggling with something. Even that family that you’re super jealous of because they seem to have it all. And yes — even the girl that fits into your old jeans.
Amy Carpenter is the site manager and editor for LDSBlogs.com. She served a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Denver, Colorado, where she learned to love mountains and despise snow. She has a passion for peanut butter, dancing badly, and most of all, the gospel.