My failure to see the good in someone is just that. My failure.
A number of years ago, in my work, I met someone who possessed what I then saw as a peculiar ability to find the good in someone when the "bad" was glaringly obvious. I was struck with the way this man, John, would identify the strengths in the person whose destructive behavior was leaving a wake of cynicism, anger, and heartbreak.
At the time, it was much easier for me to see the person's flaws, to judge them, and to criticize them, than it was to see their strengths, to acknowledge those strengths, and to nurture them.
I didn't like that about myself. That wasn't the person who I wanted to be. So, I sought out John as a mentor and a confidant. I expressed my admiration for him. He saw the good in me, as he did in others, and he nurtured it.
Those years ago, he knew what I then believed and now know as well. Despite any of our mistakes, or failures, our misdeeds, or our flaws, we are all inherently good. We all suffer. And, what we all really need, more than anything else, is love.
Meeting John and reaching these conclusions led me to challenge myself and to ask some fundamental questions about who I was and who I wanted to be. Among them was a question I pose, at times, to people I encounter and with whom I work. "Would I rather be the type of person who believes in someone, or would I rather be the type of person who doesn't?"
When I think about the people in my life who I not only love, but with whom I feel a deep and profound attachment, among them exists a common theme. The people I love most in this world, to whom I feel a true and instinctive connection, have believed in me and they have shown it.
They may have seen me in times of happiness or desperation. We might interact regularly. I may speak to them infrequently and see their faces even less. Yet, the bond to them, from my point of view, continues to strengthen over time.
There was the high school teacher who grabbed me by the arm in the hallway, dragged me into his classroom, looked me in the eyes, and told me I was going to be a sports writer. It was out of his sheer determination that that would, eventually, come to pass.
Years later, there was a sports editor who mailed a letter to me at the hospital, when I suffered deeply, dependent upon alcohol. The envelope contained press credentials and a brief note. "I'm proud of you," he wrote. "If you ever want a job, you will always have one here."
My eyes well with tears as I type this and every time I think about it. It was an extraordinary act of kindness. He believed in me when I was incapable of believing in myself, when it was what I needed most. For that, I know I will always feel love for him.
So today, when I sit with the guy who is terribly lost and elicits my frustration with his persistent dishonesty, I know exactly what to say to him. "I know you're hurting. I know you need someone to believe in you. I want to believe in you. But, right now, I don't know what to believe."
There is no question. I would rather be the guy who believes in someone than the guy who doesn't.
At times, we must all be reminded that we, as human beings, are more alike than we are different. No matter where we find ourselves in life, we all have strengths as well as weaknesses. It takes courage to, in weakness, seek help from another person. And, therein lies an opportunity for that weakness to become a strength.