Autumn is a fascinating and powerful time of year when many significant holidays take place. During these events our personal challenges can appear magnified, and celebrations can turn into incredibly stressful times. This need not be the case however, if we try to remember that by showing respect at all times to other people, we simultaneously give ourselves a pat on the back and a good feeling inside. This is one of those rare opportunities which remind us that we are human. None of us are able to escape these difficult trials completely. We always have the choice of how to conduct ourselves, explain our difficulties and treat those around us at these stress filled moments.

Have you ever noticed how some people think that just because they are going through a tough time they can get away with being disrespectful to other people? Somehow they feel they deserve some slack, and that their problems are so important that they can snub, criticize, degrade and otherwise make life uncomfortable for everyone around them. Nothing could be less attractive, more cruel and thoughtless, or more insulting than this sort of behavior. Whether this hurtful behavior is consciously intentional or skillfully cloaked in the garb of passive aggressive behavior, it should be appropriately recognized, addressed and apologized for to keep relationships healthy.

Recently, two readers wrote me to share a couple of their thoughts on this subject:

“When people are unpleasant (especially strangers) I try to remember that you never know what someone might be going through and although it is not OK to be disrespectful at any time, when people are struggling they are not always at their best, so I usually try to not stoop to their level, but ignore their actions, or respond politely and patiently. If this is habitual behavior then it should not be tolerated and the person should be reminded of the golden rule or perhaps to get their heads out of their lower extremities or simply cut off in the future. Life is too short for unnecessary drama. We all face challenges daily – some harder/larger than others. It is how we deal with what life brings us that defines us. One of my favorite songs is by Sugarland, “It Happens” which talks about life’s ups and downs and the last line is ‘ the indisputable, irrefutable Oh so beautiful fact is …it happens!”

“We are all the victims of what is done to us. We can either use that as an excuse for failure, knowing that if we fail it isn’t really our fault, or we can say ‘I want something better than that, I deserve something better than that, and I’m going to try to make myself a life worth living.”

The former speaks to respecting others as you would like to be respected yourself. Life ‘happens’ to all of us. We must remind ourselves from time to time that none of us is more special or carry a greater burden than many others. The latter refers to our ability to make choices. It is a real shame that during times such as these we bestow our darkest, weakest, least attractive attributes on those closest to us and nearest to our hearts. What a great chance to peer into the mirror!

On the other hand, there are those souls who shine like beacons of bright light and hope, showing us by their example that when we are down on our luck we can overcome the worst odds and through good works and true gratitude regain wholeness. I find it helpful when I am feeling a bit low to remember such people. We all have them in our lives and in our memories. Call on their energy when you need positive reinforcement and a reminder that you can gracefully get through the times that are painful and that hurt.

When friends are struggling, be kind to them, be as helpful to them as you can emotionally, and show them the respect they so desperately need. The old “first stone” passage from the Bible applies here as well. Gentle handling and heartfelt caring is so important to all of us, especially when we are facing crises, tumultuous times and grave sadness. We can all relate as humans to these situations. If we can remember to show those who are caring for us during our times of need the respect they deserve, we stand a much better chance to attracting such acts of kindness when we most need them.