Forgive and Learn

I am from the “forgive and learn” school of thought. I appreciate and admire those of the “forgive and forget” tradition, especially if they truly can forgive and forget. But at heart, I am a teacher. As such I want the lessons learned not forgotten or repeated. Peter Cooke clearly stated the condition I wish to avoid in the comedy routine the Frog and Peach with Dudley Moore.   When Dudley asks Peter if he has learned from his mistakes, Peter’s character answers: “I think I have, yes, and I think I can probably repeat them almost perfectly.  I know my mistakes inside out.”

I do not want the mistakes remembered for the purpose of assigning blame or casting dispersions upon one’s character. I want them remembered for the role they can serve in avoiding parallel problems in the future.

We need to remember the things that did not work as we thought they might with the same fervor we use for celebrating those things that went right. For that is the way to acknowledge and embrace the need to ask better, more thoughtful, more thorough questions, to consider more fully the implications of the decisions we make and the actions we take in order to monitor and accept the responsibility of the results.

At a planetary scale there are no unintended consequences or side effects. There are only inputs and impacts that cause other things to happen – down wind, down stream, down time. No actions are in isolation. That is the bane and benefit of being part of an integrated system of mutual dependencies. As such we need to be cognizant of the things we cause to happen relative to the productivity, viability and verdancy of the whole network of interactions.

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