What I’ve Learned from Reading the Memoirs of People I Know in Real Life.

As a writer, I’ve gotten to know many other writers, and I often find myself in the odd position of having read the intimate memoir of someone I know in real life. 

And it always reminds me of a very important truth: we should always cut people slack.

Every time I read someone’s memoir, I’m astonished to realize how little I knew about that person — how little insight I had into his or her struggles, fears, and experiences. We see such a small part of other people’s lives.

This reminds me of one of my favorites passages from Flannery O’Connor’s letters:

“From 15 to 18 is an age at which one is very sensitive to the sins of others, as I know from recollections of myself. At that age you don’t look for what is hidden. It is a sign of maturity not to be scandalized and to try to find explanations in charity.” (August 19, 1959)

We really need to be kind to each other. Find explanations in charity. Cut people slack.

Have you ever had this experience — of reading the memoir of someone you actually know? Or been in a similar situation, when you somehow got a much bigger glimpse into the reality of someone else’s life?

I imagine that teachers of young children experience this often, when children write stories or draw pictures that reveal more than their parents might wish.




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