Not One of Mine
Driving to my office the other day, I was behind a driver who was struggling to focus. I could see lots of activity in her car, and most of it was not directly related to the priority of driving. Getting more and more frustrated, I thought to myself, “I hope it’s not one of mine.” As soon as the thought entered my mind, I laughed out loud as I asked myself: “One of my what?” Employees? Children? Parents? Siblings? Friends? Clients? Business partners? Fellow parishioners? Patients?
Though I was thinking that I hoped it wasn’t one of my employees, I realized it could have been any of the above, or…it could have been me. How would I have reacted if I knew it was “one of mine” driving that car in front of me? Would I have been more patient? Would I have given more grace? Of course I would. Knowing the human being in that car or recognizing that we shared some connection would have completely changed my reaction to the situation.
All One of Mine
We all exist within our little communities. We relate to one another through those communities and treat each other accordingly. We may not always be as nice, patient, or generous, as we should be, but we do take our common ground into consideration when determining how we react. In general, we’re going to work a bit harder to be patient and grant grace when we see the other person as “one of ours.”
Pause for a moment and consider how far the “one of mine” logic can go. Closest to us are our families. Then friends and maybe co-workers. From there we have neighbor, those in our clubs or social circles, other parents at school, our church, and maybe our country club. We might find common ground with people who like the same sports teams we like, play the same games we play, or maybe even drive the same cars. Some of us unite under shared causes, political affiliations, cities or regions, and ultimately nationalities.
National unity? Some reading this may remember the sense of unity we all felt immediately following the 9/11 attacks in 2001. I’m guessing that Ukrainians today feel a very strong bond with their fellow citizens fighting under that flag. A few years later, the movie War of the Worlds evoked worldwide unity in depicting our planet fighting for survival against an alien enemy bent on destroying humanity. Under the right circumstances, they’re all one of mine.
Not a Good Man
During the week of my “one of mine” moment, I found myself in conversations in which two separate CEOs in my industry were described as “not good men.” The assessments were subjective and centered on observed behaviors relating to integrity. Though none of us can ever fully know the heart of another, we make these assessments all the time based on what we see and hear. In this case, I have met and talked to the two men in question but have not observed specific “good” or “bad” behaviors on their part. I cannot speak to their moral compass.
Perhaps they were observed as “bad” because they were a competitor. We often associate our opponents with “bad” because they are working against our objectives – they oppose us. It is possible these men have broken promises, lied, or made questionable decisions in the pursuit of their aims. Depending on the scope of the lens, it is likely that all of us have failed similarly. I wonder if the assessment would change if the two men in question lined up on the same side of the game field with their accusers.
What would others in my industry say of me? Am I a “good” or a “bad” man? Perhaps I’m “mostly” good or “infrequently” bad. It is likely that much of my reputation is strongly associated with my “alignments” and more than a bit of hearsay. Such is the way of reputations, though frequent smokiness may indicate fire, it seems that seeing another as “one of mine” also influences how we judge his or her “good” or “badness.”
This is Us
This is us. All of us. Today, who is describing me as “not a good man”? Was it something I did or is it something I have not done, yet? Who are we seeing as “not good”? Not good in their driving. Not good in their choices. Not good in their appearance. Not good in their station in life. No one is lost to goodness and no one is good to completeness. We are all on the same continuum waffling between good and bad, right and wrong, hero and villain. it’s just that some days we do better than others.
I hope it’s not one of mine. One of my bad decisions. One of my mistakes. One of my lapses in judgment. One of my shortfalls in charity. St. Teresa of Calcutta said: “Saints are only sinners who keep trying.” G.K. Chesterton offered his own version: “There are saints indeed in my religion; but a saint only means a man who knows he is a sinner.” This is us on the road. This is us in the office. This is us at home. This is us in our relationships.
This is us, in all of our gloriously flawed and imperfect, selves. But it is not a pass and remains a poor excuse. Our call is to keep trying. Keep trying to give grace to those who are “not one of mine” as well as to those who are . Keep trying to do better, be better, avoid the same mistakes, and aim for the “good” in all we do. To keep trying, day-in, and day-out, realizing that we will fall, get back up, and fall again.
I hope it’s not one of mine, and if not, I realize that just means, not yet. Perhaps that’s a good place to start with the next “bad” driver blocking the way.
I’ve told myself this often. Thanks for the reminder!
Good stuff Phil! Thank you for sharing.
“No one is lost to goodness and no one is good to completeness.” So good. And a timely, important message when the weaponization of “us and them” is as effective as it has ever been.
Thanks for sharing, Phil.
I stopped at the exact phrase Pat did. So well said and so true. I’m still working on trying to give others that pass, even when I don’t know what’s driving their behaviors. I sure know I need it from them quite often.