He, let’s call him Bob, was always a good guy. That’s what he told me recently, but, “back in the day”, he had done some pretty bad things. It doesn’t really matter what his bad things were, but, if this were the game show, “Family Feud,” and the top ten answers were on the board, the two things that he did would have been there.
Bob was a good guy– a stellar person. Probably, would have been in the 99th percentile of goodness. Does the evil that men do always have to live after them? Yes. That seems likely.
It is so interesting– everyone knows the despicable things that he did. At least, that is what Bob thinks. Bob is wrong. Everyone is never every one.
I was with him at a conference a few months ago and everyone seemed to like him. He sat at an empty table and people, who were acquainted with him, filled up those vacant seats and he was, quickly, in the midst of earnest and enjoyable conversation. Our table hung together longer that the others and Bob and his cohorts were loathe to leave.
While walking with him in the conference hallways, our conversation was frequently interrupted by greetings from passers-by.
One woman in the hallway was cold to Bob, avoided eye contact and refused to even say, “Hello,” when Bob, cautiously, greeted her. Right after that, Bob and I sat in the hotel coffee shop and I noted how pensive he had become.
I asked, “Are you all right?” He said, “You know, I used to be a pretty good guy.” The chill in the hallway left Bob frostbitten. All of those warm greetings and the great table talk from the night before had been forgotten. “I used to be a pretty good guy.”
I told him that he still was a good guy but what I said didn’t matter. The jury of one– and there always seemed to be someone– reminded him that he didn’t, always, behave like a good guy. He didn’t have to be reminded. He knew his shortcomings. He, always, remembered and his shame, guilt, and embarrassment wrapped him in solitude when he was laughing with even the most accepting group.
“I was a good guy.” Bob would, in his own mind, never be that good guy again. It didn’t matter that most people didn’t care that he did some bad things. Some didn’t even know that he had transgressed. Some knew the real Bob. He didn’t care that most had forgiven and forgotten, because some would never forgive or forget.
He would look in the mirror and think, “There I am. I was always a good guy. Well, I used to be a good guy.” Bob wasn’t angry or bitter. He was just inside sad and lonely. It made perfect sense that some people pretended to not recognize him. He didn’t recognize himself.
Bob knows about the mysterious “forgiveness” key. He holds it in his heart. He uses it, almost, too eagerly with others. He just hasn’t figured how to turn that key in his own life.