The debate was intense and getting personal. The conflict was more than just two opinions clashing in dysfunctional ways. There were few shared facts, little interest in common ground, and a perspectives that came from different positions. As the two contestants sharpened and hurled their rhetoric, I watched in amazement at the onlookers that stood silently by.
I knew that some in the gallery had first hand views. There were those that could identify which facts were real as well as the portions that were myth. In short, there were those that knew yet were saying nothing. The silence was, to me, louder than the intense debate underway.
It is hard to know what someone else should do. The scene still haunts me yet it is repeated between friends in sports, colleagues in public services, and people on the street every day. How far can and should we go? What are the limits that demand one to engage? Does one always stand up for a friend, no matter what the cost?
Having played every role in the scene, I know that I do not always live the answer. At best, I aspire to do take the right action, often unsure what it is or when I should act. The mantras I hold onto for guidance include the following three.
Always try to care enough to step away from the debate at hand. If a response is required, “complain if you must, but don’t lash out. Keep your mouth shut, and let your heart do the talking.” (Psalm 4.4)
If support is missing or hiding, suggest you are willing to go on a quest to find the facts in the issue at hand. Expressing a willingness to see differently can open doors to a process of walking with another.
Weigh the cost of continuing the fight. At times, the person with the greatest mettle walks away from a fight s/he can win because it is the compassionate response.
Our world is fractured. Adversity and storms are overwhelming. In the now, you and I can make a difference.