I am reminded of my decision many years ago to attend law school. I was amazed by the impact Thurgood Marshall had on the Supreme Court and consequently the country because he could articulate a position in such a way as to influence others to reach a fair, equitable and logical conclusion. I knew I had to learn how to communicate that way. I knew I had to develop the skill of advocating for righteousness in a non-violent and effective way. Though I retired from the profession to answer the call to ministry, I continue to serve as an advocate in social services and for others in various capacities. It’s just who I am, and I try to instill this in my children as well.
I am reflecting on recent nationwide events and noticing that it is important to be the voice of righteousness not only for the person who is being victimized/oppressed/harmed, but for those who are committing the offense. For instance, if my child tells me something that their friend said or did to someone else that was cruel, I immediately challenge them. What did you say/do? Initially, they would look at me in a puzzled manner and clarify that they didn’t do anything wrong, they were just a bystander. Now they know doing nothing IS doing something wrong in my opinion.
First, think of the high school bullying, the college gang rapes, the police brutality and on and on, that might be averted if just one person amongst the inner-circle spoke up. I have tried to instill in them early-on that no relationship is so important that you should have to compromise your standards to belong. If telling a friend or colleague that you disagree with them jeopardizes that friendship, it’s a relationship that shouldn’t be maintained anyway.
Moreover, I am certain that those who are later found to suffer harm, or face grave consequences for their actions, wish someone would have intervened. I know it’s happened to me. I pride myself on being a person that lives out my convictions and yet, I remember a distinct instance where my emotions brought me out of character. My husband, looked at me in disbelief and stopped me from acting on my feelings. I “snapped out of it” and came to myself and de-escalated my response. I was grateful to have surrounded myself with people who will hold me accountable to righteousness. Someone facing expulsion, incarceration or other penalties is wishing one of their buddies would have done the same.
(Of course, there will be those who are bent on wrongdoing no matter who intervened, but I am specifically referring to the type of person who may not intend to do wrong, but without accountability, leadership and proper influence could do so).
I always worry about people who don’t want to be held accountable. How dangerous it is for them and those around them if they cannot take correction or be challenged to improve. I know so many awesome people who fail to realize that the silence of good people emboldens bad people. We have barely survived slavery and the holocaust, but shouldn’t we learn from history? Will our consciences really allow us to continually be “bystanders” of wrongdoing?
Shouldn’t we all be more willing to take a stand when someone in our company tells an offensive joke, wants to harm someone else with their actions or do something wrong? I pray we as individuals become more conscious of our own personal responsibility to use our voice. We don’t all have to make a flagrant display on social media. We don’t all have to become social activists. We don’t all have to be lawyers to speak…be the voice of reason in your own circle of influence. Be the voice of righteousness.