I am an angry man.
That may surprise a few of you who think you know me, and it may likewise seem out of synch with the smiling picture you see of me on social media and on my website. The statement, no matter how out of character or out of place it seems, is indeed true. I am an angry man, sometimes.
This past week I listened to the celebration of life for Herb Kelleher, one of the founders for Southwest Airlines. He was loved by many; admired by many; hailed by many as one of the most successful businessmen of our day. He helped start the most profitable, and successful, US airline in aviation history. He was remembered for his wit, his laugh, his tenacity, his courage, and his larger-than-life personality. However, as his close friends discussed the great man, they also talked about his faults and weaknesses. He forgot and lost things regularly. He was unorganized. He probably drank a little too much Wild Turkey. In spite of his weaknesses, he was by many standards wildly successful. He made a difference in the lives of thousands, even millions, of people because of what he accomplished.
Every man (and woman) has faults and weaknesses, but they are only threads woven into the tapestry of character that we weave throughout our lives.
Like most of you, I followed the confrontation between high school students in MAGA hats and the drum-beating Native American protestor in Washington DC. The incident itself made me cringe on multiple levels. I was grateful it didn’t turn into a physical confrontation. I was disappointed at the rush to judgement and the hateful things said of the participants. Almost immediately I saw hateful memes and heated arguments full of name-calling and vitriol blanketing social media. Somehow, without ever being there, we all became experts in human behavior and omniscient diviners of the human heart. We rushed to judgement and became social-media mobs with hashtags, likes, and tweets, instead of pitchforks, torches, and buckets of tar.
Every enemy we face is a fellow human being, until we vilify them and contort them into a monster through our own interpretation of their intent, character, and soul. In his book, The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
Everyone you meet is a mixed bag of good and evil, of virtue and vice, and of heroism and villainy. The same thing is true of the person you see in the mirror. Do you offer the same gentle judgement and the same merciful hand to both? Evil does exist in the world and should be contained, but perhaps we need to start by trying to root out the evil in our own heart first.
I am an angry man, sometimes. But I am also a kind man, sometimes. When I am weighed in the balance, which side will tip the scale? Will I be remembered for my faults, or for my strengths? Will I be judged by my successes, or by my failures? Truthfully, I hope that I am remembered for all the good, and evil, that sprang from my heart. Hopefully, people will judge the entire tapestry I have woven with the acts of my life and not pull only at the dark threads.