Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Good Grief Charlie Brown

If you are familiar at all with the Peanuts comic strip, you’ve seen this frame in various forms over and over again…

This situation was described aptly in The West Wing episode “The Drop In”:

"You are the Charlie Brown of missile defense. The Pentagon is Lucy." When Leo says he doesn't read the comics, the President explains, "Charlie Brown wanted to kick a football and Lucy would hold it except that she'd pull it away at the last minute and Charlie Brown would fall on his butt. . . . Each time Lucy would find a way to convince Charlie Brown that this time she wouldn't pull the ball away, but she would and once again Charlie Brown would fall on his butt." As the President predicted, Leo's high hopes are dashed, and the President tells him, "By the way, the words you're looking for are, 'Oh, Good Grief.'"

(summary provided by http://westwing.bewarne.com/second/34dropin.html)

So is Charlie Brown right to continue to trust Lucy or is he unable to learn from his mistakes?

A friend recently posted Cynicism & Professionalism which this is a kinda sorta response to.  Here is a partial quote of my comment that I posted there:

But I think it's always useful to keep in mind that most people are mostly trying to do the right thing most of the time.
Whether or not people's intent and their results end up in the same place or not, well that's another story (says the cynic ;) )

While “past performance is not an indicator of future results”, I think that we are unwise to ignore past experiences in formulating our response to the future.  Forgiveness is important.  Giving someone the benefit of the doubt is important.  Trusting that people’s intent is generally good is important.  But the lesson I get from Charlie Brown and Lucy is "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Sometimes you need to leave Lucy there holding the ball so that you’re not left saying “Oh, Good Grief.”

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