My friend Emily used to play a little game that I found both inspiring and a little bit annoying. Whenever I'd get upset with someone, Emily would make up the wildest excuses to account for their behavior. If someone was driving wrecklessly and cut me off, I'd snap at them a bit or comment on their stupidity. Emily would say "Maybe he's trying to get his pregnant wife to the hospital!" She had an excuse for everyone, no matter what the situation. It always made me feel a tiny bit guilty for my angry reaction.
I've tried to convert to her point of view, to learn to play that game myself. And what a valuable lesson, what a wonderful way to live life. To go through and extend a little extra grace to the people around us, to make excuses for others, even if they don't deserve it. What a wonderful habit, to try not to judge people solely on their behavior, but on their motives, their intentions, and their experiences.
Of course, some actions are fairly indefensible, some people are cruel, some situations are basically unpardonable. But, to extend kindness to someone else, even in a terrible situation, is just another level of the game. The more we can forgive in others, the more we can truly love them. And what a difference we can make in their lives when we show them a little more patience than they deserved. What a difference it can make in our own lives, just extending the compassion we've been given, and passing along the mercy we have been shown.
It's all about how you judge.