Wait Long Enough and People Will Surprise and Impress You

This past weekend was our semi-annual weekend vocation retreat for UST law students. A group of us were at Holy Spirit Retreat Center in Janesville and, as always, it was a grace-filled weekend.

On the first evening of the retreat, we watched a video of The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. The lecture was delivered by Randy Pausch, Professor of Computer Science and Human-Computer Interface Design at Carnegie Mellon. In August of 2007, Pausch, who suffered from pancreatic cancer, was given a terminal diagnosis and told he would have 3-6 months of good health before he would start to fail. He delivered this lecture on September 19, 2007 and died the following July.

There were a number of things Pausch said in the video that struck me as good advice, good reminders to keep in mind. One, something that he learned from one of his mentors, was: wait long enough and people will surprise and impress you. Phrased differently: find the best in everybody, no matter how long you have to wait for them to show it.

This is something that is not always easy for us. We are so quick to want to label people. He or she said something bad or did something bad, so they must be bad. He or she disappointed me in some way, so they should be dismissed.

What would it be like to suspend judgement? To be able to say, “Well, it is true that this person did this bad [disappointing…insensitive] thing, but that bad [disappointing…insensitive] thing doesn’t define him or her. I’ll just wait and see what the rest of the evidence shows before get angry or develop bad feelings toward them.” It might be a long wait; as Rausch noted, sometimes it may take years before people will show you their good side. But if we could wait, if we could keep our heart open and not write off the person in anger or disappointment, we just might find out something extraordinary about the person.

It’s worth a try, isn’t it?

There is a lot of other good advice in the lecture. You can watch it in full here.