The title of this post, of course, is from the Alexander Pope quote, “To err is human. To forgive divine.”

This post isn’t about forgiveness. However, lest we forget, we are all human! So what does that mean? For one, it means we aren’t machines programmed to automatically produce correct responses in all situations. We all make mistakes. Most of the important lessons I’ve learned in life are the result of mistakes I’ve made. To paraphrase Will Rogers, Good judgment is the result of wisdom. Wisdom is the result of bad judgment.

Consider instant replay.

It’s been a great addition to sports officiating. Questionable calls are immediately scrutinized to ensure they are correct. As much as we like to complain about the refs, it’s still amazing to me how often officials make the right calls — particularly given the speed of most games, and the need to make snap decisions, play after play. As viewers, we get the luxury of scrutinizing the refs’ calls in slow motion — and from multiple angles.

In some ways, that’s exactly what we do in mediation. We have the benefit of hindsight, and the luxury of scrutinizing decisions others had to make in real time.

I recently mediated a legal malpractice case.

It seemed clear to all involved that the lawyer made a mistake — one which led to severe consequences for his client. It was easy for me to see the mistake. In a manner of speaking, I had the benefit of instant replay to assess the decision and render judgment.

I regularly mediate medical malpractice cases.

It’s amazing to me, when I think about how often doctors have to make life and death decisions in real time. Sometimes they make the wrong decisions. That doesn’t necessarily make them bad people, or incompetent doctors. In many instances, it just means they made mistakes.

Mediation provides an excellent vehicle to assess fault and culpability for mistakes that have been made. It also provides an opportunity to remedy, or compensate for, the resulting damage.

As a mediator, it’s important for me to be empathetic with attorneys, doctors, business owners and individuals — rather than being judgmental.

Someone made a mistake.

In most of the cases I’ve mediated, the defendant didn’t intentionally harm his client, patient or other party.

When mistakes are made, it’s human nature to find it easier to empathize with the one who’s been injured as a result. However, to do my job well, I need to empathize with all parties. I employ the term “tactical empathy” — which is a technique I wrote about in a previous post, inspired by a blog I read often by The Black Swan Group.

This post reminds me that whether we serve as attorneys or mediators — or in some other role — we should first apply the golden rule in treating others the way that we’d want to be treated. For me serving in a mediation, that rule would be, “empathize before I judge.”

Enjoy the journey.