HItlerI learned two valuable lessons when I asked to be released from a position where I was dealing with an abusive superior.  The first was a question I was asked, “Have you learned anything from this experience?”  My reply, “Yes, how not to act in the position of the superior.”  The response, “But you learned something!”  The second lesson was to question to examine – to extract as much knowledge as possible from the situation.

There will always be bad things happening either because of ignorance, malice or just bad luck.  That’s human nature.  There will be suffering but it doesn’t have to be a waste – we can learn from the experience and create a better world from the wreckage.  In fact, it’s a moral imperative that we do so, otherwise we are left in a declining world – a slide to despair and gloom.

Nothing and no one is perfect.  Even the best person will have a dark side.  It may be very small, but it will be there.  But even in the worst people, there can be good things coming forth.

But the temptation is to reject everything from anyone that has the slightest perceived negative in their life.

Consider,

  • Adolf Hitler encouraged the development of the Volkswagen and the autobahn – providing greater transportation opportunities and efficiencies.
  • Joseph Stalin pushed the Soviet Union into the industrial age – providing the means to defeat the Nazis and raise the standard of living.
  • Bill Cosby entertained millions with the Bill Cosby Show – providing a positive view of black fatherhood.

Understand that I’m not condoning the evil they did – the millions dead and abused are permanent stains on their names.

No, what we must do is separate the act from the person.  My wife once remarked that a certain song that had meant something special to us as a couple was ruined for her when she found out that the song was written for the singer’s mistress instead of his wife.  If that is the standard, then how much of Mozart’s music should we reject?  He was known for frequenting prostitutes and conducting himself in scandalous fashion.

We must seek for the good even among the bad.  Otherwise, we risk throwing away any progress because the source isn’t pure.  And I challenge anyone to find any person or organization that can’t be criticized.

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.