Martin Luther King Jr. plagiarized his doctoral dissertation. He was also a philanderer. If Adolf Hitler had died before September of 1939 he would be remembered as a hero who brought Germany out of bankruptcy to become one of the most powerful economic and military forces in the world. I’m not going to try to defend either of these claims here, that isn’t the point and if you’re honestly interested it won’t take a ton of research to verify these as facts. However, my point isn’t that King was a horrible person or that Hitler was a hero. Neither of these is true. Hitler was a horrible tyrant, and King was a noble reformer. However, we rarely look at the other sides of these men… or of most people.
Humans tend to like having heroes and villains. We like to deify the good, at least in part so that we won’t have to try to emulate them, and we like to villainize the evil, largely because we don’t like to think that we could be like them. The problem is that we should try to emulate the good, and we can be like the evil.
There is a concept in Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead that I love… well, to be honest Card has a number of ideas that I love, but this one is particularly good. The Speaker for the Dead in the novel is a man who sees people truly. He comes to speak at funerals (literally to speak for the dead), but instead of giving beautiful eulogies about how wonderful the deceased is, the speaker lays the deceased’s life bare, showing him/her for the person that he/she actually is. The speaker reveals the good, the bad, the ugly, the strange, and the painful. In doing so the speaker allows everyone to see new sides of a person they thought they knew. He allows them to see the truth of the person. Honestly, I hope that someone will do this for me when I die.
I spent some time with some friends tonight, people that I care about, some that I love, but this particular group of friends tends to be fairly judgmental. They don’t generally intend to be judgmental, but they see the world in a particular way, and they aren’t really willing to see it in another way. The thing is, we all tend to come across this way sometimes. We all have views, beliefs, or opinions that we hold strongly, and when we get into these views we tend to come across as judgmental assholes.
The thing is, we can’t not be this way unless we just stop believing… anything. So, what do we do? I think the best we can do is try to realize when we sound judgmental and do our best to mitigate it. We must speak with authority, and we must speak our beliefs, but we need to learn how to do so without simply running over the people around us. This is one of the more difficult things that we can do.