Here is a very, very interesting story about the science of how human memory works and about how unreliable it is. While the immediate context deals with the Brian Williams controversy over at NBC News, the science this article refers to is good to keep in mind as we shepherd people and deal with situations where their memory of events is markedly different than our own.
This article helps me better understand some situations where I have interacted with people that I was convinced had good hearts and integrity and would never intentionally lie or deceive, but who said they recalled things that I was convinced were not true. My "prophetic" side moved me toward judgement concerning their character based on my own recollection of the facts involved, while my "pastoral" side moved me toward giving them the benefit of the doubt based on what my "gut" told me about their lack of evil intent or any sense that they would intentionally lie to me.
At the end of the day, my biggest personal and leadership "take-aways" from this article are:
1. When conversations take place and/or decisions are made that have important consequences, it is always a very good thing to quickly follow up with an email recapping what was agreed upon, such as a "Memo of Understanding" in more formal situations. This provides a level of objectivity via a "fixed point of reference" that is vital to accountability processes.
2. It is not only a very Christ-like and redemptive thing to be slow to judge others and to be quick to forgive them, but it is actually the most equitable and wise way to lead or manage people. After all, if science proves "their" memories are "gist-based" and therefore inherently unreliable to some degree, it also proves the same thing about my own recollections. Of course, the older I get, the more I am already becoming aware of that! :)
Brian Williams' 'misremembering' is more complicated than you think