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What if we judged people not by their achievements but according to their failures? How many swim meets would you guess Michael Phelps didn’t win? Considering the length of his swimming career, he might have a record number of losses. So how about Einstein? We remember him for bringing us the Theory of Relativity, but he didn’t come up with a unified theory. Dummy.
What if at the Reckoning many believe we face when we die, the only deeds recorded on our scroll of accomplishments were our mistakes: when we wronged a friend or hurt Mom’s feelings or cheated or lied or kicked the dog. “But it was only once so long ago!” you cry. “And I did my best to make amends! I’ve done many kindnesses since.” St. Peter rolls up the scroll and makes that tsk, tsk sound. “Tough.”
I started thinking about what my list of accomplishments might look like if I divided the list into two columns—good stuff and bad stuff (skipping inconsequential stuff). I’m hoping that’s what anyone who must judge me will do. I’m hoping I’ve done enough really good things to balance out my worst moments. After all, I’m human! No one expects us humans to be perfect! Well, almost no one.
Recently, the litany of complaints dumped on the presidential candidates—especially on my Facebook page—exhaust me. Professionals call it “spin”—how experts edit information to manipulate the way people feel about it. It seems to me voters should be able to make a good decision in November by creating their own Day of Reckoning list. If you want to know how good someone is, make a list of the good things that person has done for other people—not by proxy or with money, but in person. Actions speak louder than words, but you can’t rely on someone’s enemies to tell you what that person has done, and you can’t rely on what someone may say they did. Find objective reports. Make a list of the supporters that person has. Are they supporting the candidate to get something—or out of high principles? A good leader attracts sincere support from thinking people. Finally, compare the Reckoning lists of the candidates. You’re gambling your welfare and that of your country. Be sure you’re making a good decision.
If you’re interviewing job candidates or evaluating co-workers or even considering whether to date someone, look at the positives hardest. What are the good things this person might be able to make happen? What contributions will the person make? What is the person like to work with? (Google, for example, doesn’t hire people who don’t play well with others.) Remember people (and that includes husbands and wives) will work hardest for someone who makes them feel appreciated. The companies that treat their employees well (such as Zappos or Google) never lack for great employees.
Judge other people the way you want to be judged. But you have to do it honestly. If you simply squint so you don’t see any negatives about the person you prefer and then accept every rumored negative against the person you don’t want to like, you’re cheating. You don’t have to squint to appreciate good people who are trying hard to do the best they can. They have long lists of good stuff they’ve done—plus a few human mistakes.
If nothing else, looking at the positive side of people for a change might make you look on the positive side of yourself, as well, and maybe life. A positive attitude helps keep you well mentally and physically, and it makes life easier to live. And it gives you good people to work with instead of people who will disappoint you.