Mr. McCullough: You can’t get organisms that are willing to hang in there with each other through thick and thin and make good things happen despite the roadblocks and the bumps along the way if they aren’t willing to tolerate each other’s mistakes. Sometimes, if we’re cooperatively hunting — let’s say we’re some sort of animal that works together to hunt — sometimes, I’m going to let you down. And maybe it’s not even intentional, but I’m going to get distracted and I’m going to make a mistake. And if you take each of those mistakes as the last word about my cooperative disposition, you might just give up and so no cooperation gets done.
So, really, our ability — and across the animal kingdom many animals’ ability to cooperate with each other and make things happen that they can’t do on their own — is undergirded by an ability to forgive each other for occasional defections and mistakes.
I really think we can’t lose sight of the value of kind of getting in each other’s business a little bit and getting in each other’s lives a little bit and being willing to try to make things a little bit uncomfortable and a little bit messy in the service of making them better.
–Michael McCullough, interviewed by Krista Tippett at On Being