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What are some good self-reminders to be generous and compassionate?
May 29, 2010 1:31 PM   Subscribe

What are some short quotes or sayings that can be used to remind yourself to treat others with compassion and generosity? I'm looking for quick reminders (maybe one-liners) to be used on the fly during the day. Thank you!
posted by jenmakes to Human Relations (53 answers total) 104 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hanlon's Razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. I tend to think that assuming irritating people are acting out of ignorance is far more generous to them than alternative explanations. Helps me be a bit more patient, too.
posted by amelioration at 1:37 PM on May 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


Og Mandino wrote, “Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness, and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:40 PM on May 29, 2010 [31 favorites]


The Golden Rule: Do to others as you would like done unto you.
posted by mmascolino at 1:40 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not religious in the least, but I've never heard the phrase "there, but for the grace of god, go I" expressed better in other terms.
posted by griphus at 1:45 PM on May 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


I usually just tell myself, "don't be a shithead." Hard to beat for concision and punch.
posted by killdevil at 1:51 PM on May 29, 2010


"Always be a little kinder than necessary." -J.M. Barrie
posted by corey flood at 1:56 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


hurting is wrong, helping is right
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:57 PM on May 29, 2010


live to give
posted by gursky at 2:06 PM on May 29, 2010


"Never look down on a man unless you're helping him up." - Jesse Jackson
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 2:14 PM on May 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Dr. Seuss: "A person's a person, no matter how small." (from Horton Hears A Who)
posted by amyms at 2:21 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." -Plato
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:24 PM on May 29, 2010 [22 favorites]


Is it true, is it kind, does it help?
posted by lemniskate at 3:02 PM on May 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is not a famous quote, but I used to have a roommate who never let mean or snotty people get her down. Her reasoning was that rude people were just lacking in social skills, and that this probably hurt them more than it hurt her. I've found this is an incredibly useful way of looking at people who are rude, inconsiderate or uncivil.
posted by lunasol at 3:05 PM on May 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


Gandhi: we must be the change we wish to see in the world.
posted by francesca too at 3:08 PM on May 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


"We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.” - Mark Vonnegut (Kurt's son)
posted by Zosia Blue at 3:10 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.

People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. Love them anyway.

My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am.

I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble.

Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something and has lost something.

To err on the side of kindness is seldom an error.

Between here and now and forever / there's so precious little time
what we do in love and kindness / is all we ever leave behind

(Uh, I'm kind of a quote addict.)
posted by tzikeh at 3:14 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


And, of course from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure:

Bill: Be excellent to each other.
posted by tzikeh at 3:16 PM on May 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


I try to remember that we're all little kids, trapped inside bodies that insist on getting bigger and uglier.
posted by amtho at 3:24 PM on May 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind.

-- Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater
posted by vespertine at 3:33 PM on May 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


When in doubt, be kind.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:39 PM on May 29, 2010


You're behind an old man in a checkout line, and he's taking forever. Now he's counting out 67 pennies. And you're in a hurry, and frustration is rising. And he made a mistake so now he's starting again. Say to yourself: Red flag, red flag. Because that's what it is — for you. Then be kindly to the man. You'll get old too -- hopefully.

You're in traffic and a lunatic has taken offense and is tailgaiting you. Now he passes and gives you the finger and screams something. Be generous quietly -- now is not the time for engagement -- by understanding that he might wrap himself around a utility pole, but not hoping he will.
posted by LonnieK at 3:45 PM on May 29, 2010


"Everyone needs a hug."
posted by box at 3:59 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is a Jewish proverb that helps me with this: if you always tell yourself that each person you meet could be the Messiah, you will come to weigh your words and watch your hands, and whether or not he comes in your time will not matter.
posted by eleanna at 4:07 PM on May 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


There's the line from the song by The Smiths: 'It's easy to laugh, it's easy to hate. It takes guts to be gentle and kind.'

And Benjamin Graham--The Dean of Wall St.--quoting what his lover said to him: 'You're humane but not human.' Which ties in with an entreaty I've heard elsewhere to 'try to understand the weaknesses of others, and your own.' After all, if we can't understand theirs, why should they understand ours? God knows we have them.
posted by Deor at 4:36 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Something along the lines of [You have a choice how to react:] Choose compassion.

I'm pretty sure I read it here.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:44 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


"It's nice to be important... but it's important to be nice."
posted by Crane Shot at 4:55 PM on May 29, 2010


In that same stream...
"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
posted by gregoreo at 5:24 PM on May 29, 2010


"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible." ~Dalai Lama

"I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him." ~George Washington Carver
posted by headnsouth at 6:49 PM on May 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


From my mother: It's nice to be nice to the nice. (That is to say: If you're nice, people will like being nice to you in return.)
From my grandmother: Always be kind and good.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:03 PM on May 29, 2010


"And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make." - Paul McCartney

"Let it be loved...let me be loved." - Jenny Lewis

"All is full of love." - Bjork

Thanks for posting this! I, too, need to remind myself to be full of love many times throughout the day.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 8:49 PM on May 29, 2010


Wow - so many quotes! Thanks everyone - these are quite helpful. The one I've been relying on lately is "don't be an asshole", which has been effective, but I'm ready to switch it up.

Thanks again =)
ding!
posted by jenmakes at 9:10 PM on May 29, 2010


You're behind an old man in a checkout line, and he's taking forever. Now he's counting out 67 pennies. And you're in a hurry, and frustration is rising. And he made a mistake so now he's starting again. Say to yourself: Red flag, red flag. Because that's what it is — for you. Then be kindly to the man. You'll get old too -- hopefully.

This sort of thing happens to me a lot. I get frustrated with strangers and, before I get too irritated or unfriendly, I put a more familiar face to the stranger. I think of my elderly mother and how I would be crushed if I knew that others treated her poorly.. and I think 'one day, that will be you.. or someone else that you care about.' So, all in the vein of 'treat people the way you would want to be treated (or the way you would want your dearest family and friends to be treated)' because everyone (hopefully) is dear to someone in this world.

There's the line from the song by The Smiths: 'It's easy to laugh, it's easy to hate. It takes guts to be gentle and kind.'

That part ALWAYS makes me tear up because it's so, so true. The humanism that Morrissey has reflected in his lyrics is so beautiful that I've always hoped that I, and others, would take his messages to heart. Similarly, there's the Michael Jackson song 'Man In The Mirror,' which is just a beautiful song about how generosity and goodness needs to start with you. It's not easy being gentle, kind, generous, and compassionate in this world (every single day will try your nerves), but those small steps (even just a smile) can make such a difference to others and to you.
posted by Mael Oui at 10:00 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ridiculous, but true: Don't be a dick.
posted by Space Kitty at 10:45 PM on May 29, 2010


"Be the bigger person."

I don't know where exactly this comes from, but I've been thinking about it a lot lately.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 10:46 PM on May 29, 2010


tzikeh already mentioned one of the Paradoxical Commandments but you might enjoy the rest:

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
posted by zanni at 10:52 PM on May 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


The nobler a soul, the more objects of compassion. — Francis Bacon

I saw this quote hanging in a janitorial closet in a middle school. If the people who clean up after middle-school kids can manage to feel compassion for them, there's hope for the world.
posted by TEA at 10:55 PM on May 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


My father reminded me to consider: "There but for the grace of God go I."
And from my mother: "From those to whom much is given, much is expected."
posted by TDIpod at 11:07 PM on May 29, 2010


Another variation on the kindness message:

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.
--Plato (At least that's what the first search result said!)
posted by domographer at 12:13 AM on May 30, 2010


One I made up a long time ago is "Treat everyone you meet like it's their birthday." Everyone's going around with their secret birthday, secretly hoping that they'll have an easy, good day, hoping that the people they meet will treat them just a little easier.

If that's not working for my mood, I try something like, "Treat everyone you meet as if someone they love just died." This was pretty useful when I was in that state myself and was feeling like a fragile little bird.
posted by lauranesson at 6:56 AM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Anything by the Dalai Lama, but especially:

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them.

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.

Compassion is the radicalism of our time.

Compassion is not religious business, it is human business, it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability, it is essential for human survival.
posted by QuakerMel at 8:20 AM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Gandhiji's (Gandhi's) Talisman: "I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test.
Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away."

So, would what you're doing be of any use to the most downtrodden human you've ever seen? If not, is it worth doing?
posted by cmoj at 8:22 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


We cannot avoid using power, so let us love powerfully.
—Martin Buber

The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been kindness, beauty, and truth.
—Albert Einstein

There is nothing stronger in the world than gentleness.
—Han Suyin

Could greater miracle take place than for us to look through eachother's eyes for an instant?
—Thoreau

When you reach the heart of life you shall find beauty in all things, even in the eyes that are blind to beauty.
—Kahil Gibran
posted by Pamelayne at 1:03 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not a one-liner, but...

"I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out."

-Roger Ebert
posted by mreleganza at 5:33 PM on May 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


I've found reading Postsecret has helped me become a more compassionate person. Frank Warren: "Every single person has a secret that would break your heart if you knew it."
posted by nelleish at 5:42 PM on May 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


I just keep telling myself, "Don't be an asshole. Don't be an asshole. It's really really hard, but it's worth it." I only succeed about ten percent of the time, but hey, it's something. And I remind myself of all the times people have been so kind and forgiving towards me.
posted by bricoleur at 6:18 PM on May 30, 2010


Believe me, every heart has its secret sorrows, which the world knows not; and oftentimes we call a man cold when he is only sad. - attributed to Henry W. Longfellow
posted by yawper at 7:16 PM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Waste no more time arguing about what a good person should be. Be one." -- Marcus Aurelius
posted by scody at 7:51 PM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Never assume to Malice what can be equally applied to Ignorance.
posted by The Whelk at 9:27 PM on May 30, 2010


Nthing the 'never attribute to malice-' quote, it goes waaaaaay back. From the Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius, circa the 2nd century AD:

"Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today inquisitive, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill."
posted by Ndwright at 10:33 AM on May 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Buddhism has a practice called loving-kindness or metta meditation. From a beginner's guide:
When metta [loving-kindness] arises, one enables and urges it on with the use of 4 aspirations.
1. May he/she be free from enmity/danger
2. May he/she be free from mental suffering
3. May he/she be free from physical suffering
4. May he/she take care of himself/herself happily
In the moment, I simplify it by saying to myself, "may he or she be happy and free from suffering."
posted by desjardins at 11:56 AM on May 31, 2010


I had a friend who told me once that inside, people are all like little fawns lost in the woods without their mama deer: scared and shaky and not very good at anything. Some people are annoying in their open incompetence, while others are annoying in their desperate attempts to cover it up, but the truth is we're all little fawns. When I need a reminder, I just picture that terrified little deer hiding under a bush, or maybe tell myself "just a fawn." I try to apply this to myself, as well, when my own behavior disappoints. Otherwise I just blame myself for not being nice enough and make things worse in my head. But I'm just a fawn too.
posted by vytae at 8:27 AM on June 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Those who deserve kindness the least are often those who need it the most.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:31 AM on June 2, 2010


This is water.
posted by naoko at 7:58 PM on August 15, 2010


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