Timing is a strange thing, isn’t it? There are crafted-out moments timed and handed to each one of us for our response. How we act during these pivotal times will reveal who we really are.

Lately, we have been working with a difficult client. Throughout the process he has been OCD and distrustful but last week he was out-and-out mean. I know what you’re thinking, “You should know better.” Well, we did know; there were warning signs. He was rude to his wife during the initial meeting and he bad-mouthed other businesses that we respect and subcontract with. We went forward with him because sometimes you “hire” the project despite the client. (Come on, admit it!)  We believed we needed his nice-sized project.

A couple of weeks ago, my boss found out that his father has Stage 4 lung cancer. Mike started DuKate Fine Remodeling in 1988 with his father as his only “employee.” This has been hard for our boss and for our little “band of brothers” at DuKate. We love Duke. In the middle of all this bad news came the call from the difficult client. Pointed right at Mike, the unwarranted, untrue zinger meant to inflict pain was sent reeling through the phone lines. Mind you, he knew what Mike was going through. It was untrue, unnecessary, and mean even on the best of days and it was not the best of days. The “who to hire and who not to” lesson is one we all know. But what is the deeper, human lesson here?

Having a critical spirit is easy. It takes almost zero effort—especially when it appears you have endless days ahead of you. Being kind is always a different story. The client had a real opportunity handed to him. It was critical timing in the life of a man who had been very good to him. Instead, while standing in the middle of his beautifully transformed kitchen, the client chose to use his words as a knife instead of a balm. He missed his kindness opportunity and left a big black mark.

Unfortunately for him, those are the moments we all point to, catalog, and remember.

Kathy Shertzer is office manager at DuKate Fine Remodeling, in Franklin, Indiana.