Shootin' the Breeze

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Harmful Neutrality

Neutrality is an expensive option. When you see someone being wronged and fail to take the side of the one being wronged you reward the wrongdoer. Then the one who was wronged suffers more wrong by your lack of support.

If you care for two people and one of them wrongs the other, you must take the side of the one wronged. If you remain neutral you lose the affection and respect of the one who was wronged.  If you do not remain neutral you only lose the affection of the wrongdoer. But you uphold what is right when you condemn the wrongdoer. Better that you lose the wrongdoer than the one wronged.

The Menninger brothers were famous psychiatrists who ran a wonderful world renowned clinic in Topeka, Kansas. I read remarks by one of them once when I was young about what he called the sin of apathy, which he described as the failure to take the right side when evil is done. He described the tendency to try to remain neutral and avoid taking sides as a very serious evil because it rewards evil. He was right. Neutrality is a wonderful reward to wrongdoers and only adds to the harm of the one who is wronged.

My good friend, Walter J. Hopp, wrote this a few years ago, as notes to his children from their father.  They have a wise father.  What should seem obvious is difficult for many well-intentioned people to follow.  They believe that they are being “nice” by not taking sides.  Instead, like the nations which did not stand up to Hitler initially, they enabled evil.

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11 thoughts on “Harmful Neutrality

  1. Apathy is wed to indifference!

  2. How do you discern who is in the wrong?

  3. thanks for reminding us that neutrality is costly! … “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:17

  4. There’s a book called the Tyranny of Silence. I heard the author speak recently on just this subject. He message was very powerful and has stayed with me. Great post, good reminder!

  5. Interesting post! I had never thought about this subject in quite this way.

  6. You are absolutely right in all this. You probably know the quote , supposedly by the Irishman Edmund Burke (1729-1797):

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

  7. I agree, but remember that it’s sometimes difficult to discern who is right and who is wrong, as both can tell a pretty convincing story. Like the two versions Elizabeth Bennet got from Mr Darcy and Mr Wickham (Pride & Prejudice) about who wronged whom. It’s so important to get all the facts.

    Ed, an older & wiser man was in the hospital dying of a rare blood disease. One day the wife of his next-bed “neighbor” came to visit and the two of them scrapped; after she left, the man turned to Ed and complained about his wife and her faults.

    Ed told him, “There are three sides to every story. His side, her side, and the TRUTH.” I’ve never forgotten that statement.

  8. Yes, often it is not clear who wronged whom, but this is about when it is clear, such as the next post about bullying.

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