Kindness. Mercy. Encouragement. Generosity of spirit. These are all moral ideals that I've written on recently. But there's an interesting thing about ideals. We never embody them perfectly. They may be perfect. But we're not. We fall short.
The value of ideals in our lives is in how we use them. They should be inspirational and aspirational - they should remind us, encourage us in the right direction, and often correct us.
The proper response to an ideal is to remember it and seek to live it. But we all encounter obstacles to the perfect embodiment of any ideal. We have our own psychological quirks and wounds, and some are buried deep beneath our conscious awareness. We have drives, and ticks, and sensitivities, and felt needs that can make it difficult to satisfy the strict guidance of our highest values. Something you went through in your childhood, or much more recently, could make it difficult for you, in some situations, to act in accordance with the golden rule, or your own best aspirations, in your treatment of another person, in action, gesture, or tone.
Does that make you a hypocrite, for not always living what you might espouse? No, it just shows that you're a normal, fallible human.
Some people get all tied up in self-recriminations and guilt because of this problem. And those things then can become further obstacles.
How then should we respond to our own failures?
The first and most fundamental applications of kindness, mercy, encouragement, and generosity of spirit are always to yourself. Be kind to yourself. Be corrective and yet merciful toward your own failings. Encourage yourself along the path laid out by your ideals. And be generous to yourself as you seek and struggle and stumble along the road of improvement. Accord your own spirit the high value that you want and need to accord to others. That will create the conditions within you by which you can, increasingly, be these things to others, in even the most difficult of circumstances.
Love yourself properly, and you can then love others properly.
That's the real ideal.