Joe Chuman, Leader of the Bergen Society, gave a personal and heartfelt Platform address this morning on the topic, “Ethics For a Lifetime”. This was not, as one might think from the title, a reflection on his own life, rather it was a plea to us all that when we judge others, we do so taking the totality of their life and actions into consideration rather than a single event.
We live in a very coarse age, one in which every statement, public or private, is parsed and categorized, judged and adjudicated according to the most recent standards of political correctness and indignation. It is, indeed, a nasty time that we live in, one in which we measure a person’s character by the worst they have said and not by all they have said. It is bad enough that we judge public figures by these punitive standards but we also judge our friends, family and acquaintances similarly.
Joe’s Platform address today was a plea to mitigate this insensitivity with civility, to assume that imperfect people have fair motivations even if they are expressed with poorly chosen words drawn during the heat of the moment. Humans are a fractious lot, prone to conflict, and there is no doubt that speech can offend. But “to be offended is not the worst thing in the world” – sometimes it’s best to get a thicker skin, to turn the other cheek and give people another chance. We should judge one another by the tableau of their lives, not from a single ill considered movement.