Lesson from Speaker of the Dead: See the Whole Person, Both Good and Bad

During my high school chemistry class, I thought I had a perfectly funny comeback in my head. My guy friends would sometimes joke, “Die!” when playing war or video games. Thus, I felt it was okay to blurt out, “I hope you die!” to a guy friend. The whole class of six people froze. Stunned, the teacher told me not to say that. Most were flabbergasted because that didn’t fit my character at all. I fumbled an apology with a strange explanation. They ignored me for the rest of class. The next day everyone talked to me like normal. They had forgiven me for my stupidity.

Five years later, I read Orson Scott Card’s book, Speaker of the Dead and one lesson stuck with me: People have a mix of good and bad. Andrew “Ender” Wiggins in Ender Games destroyed the hostile aliens because he empathized with them. In Speaker of the Dead, Andrew Wiggins shared the good and bad qualities of the hostile aliens, which opened the eyes of the public years later. His new mission changed to sharing deceased persons’ narratives of their good and bad points.

Like Ender, we understand people better when we empathize with them. We recognize the good and bad actions and personality traits they have. We understand their motivations for their actions. Whether or not we agree with those actions, we understand why people act as they do.

In our current day, we need to see people from the past and present as an entire person before “canceling” them. We need to put their words and actions into context before making a final judgment. In the meantime, we can set temporary boundaries around inappropriate words and actions. For example, my chemistry teacher corrected me and my classmates looked at me strange and ignored me for a day. They saw I recognized my error and we all moved on.

Thus, it behooves me to forgive others their stupidity as I have been forgiven of my stupidity.

We have all made mistakes, or sinned terribly, but most of us have learned from those mistakes and sins. Look at how the person is acting now. Has the person apologized? Has the person deleted those awful words? Have they made appropriate compensations?

Instead of “canceling” a person, how can we encourage a person to change?

Overall, we need more positivity and love in our world to change lives for the better.

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Eileen Davis

Eileen Davis

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I love language and believe every word is a poem. I majored in English language from BYU. I am a mom to four rambunctious boys. I have bipolar disorder too.