Recently I witnessed someone mightily defending another person. This encounter has really changed my life, and for me is one of those perfect examples of “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” This lesson is particularly powerful and I did not “get it” until days after the encounter.
I was having coffee with a friend just like I often do, and on this day we were joined by a mutual acquaintance who happened to be at the coffee shop. The three of us covered the usual topics of work life, home life, the economy, the in-laws…you get the idea. But all of a sudden, truly out of nowhere, our acquaintance, who I’ll call Tim, started spewing critical remarks about another individual with the same fervor and volume as you’d expect to hear “yeehaws” yelled out at a square dance. As I think back, this bashing was hard for me to hear, and I was uncomfortable for sure, but I did not say anything. I don’t know … maybe I was shocked, or stunned, but regardless, I was silent. However, my friend stepped up and when he was finally able to get a word in he made the case to Tim that he should stop attacking and talking about this individual…at least until more information became available.
Their exchange went on for several minutes, and I could tell that in an effort to not appear critical himself my friend was making his remarks with as lighthearted a voice as he could find within himself. But, try as he might to not make Tim feel bad, his remarks were not well received. In fact, Tim became so angered that he asked, “Why are you defending him? Who is he to you?”
When my friend did not reply right away Tim asked again, this time more intently, “Who is he to you?” My friend finally replied, “Simple, he is someone I know and respect.”
Since the “fun” of this gathering was over for me, I promptly left after this exchange and went home. As you might imagine I continued to think about what had happened. As I replayed it all in my head, the words that rang out most loudly were, “Who is he to you?” I heard those words over and over again.
What I came to realize was that what Tim was really asking my friend was not at all about his relationship with the subject of his bashing, but instead about my friend’s relationship with himself. What he was really asking was, “Who are you that you feel you have the right to say something in response to something you see or hear?” Put that way, that question gets really personal, really fast, doesn’t it? “Who are you that you feel you have the right to say something in response to something you see or hear?” And then the lesson came…
What this really boils down to is “Who are you to you?”
“Simple, I am someone I know and respect…and that sometimes requires that I stand up, no matter how uncomfortable that might be, for what I believe in and/or know to be true. I am not standing against anyone or anything …but I know who I am and if I want to continue to respect myself I sometimes have to say something in response to what I see or hear. That is who I am to myself.”
We are creating our lives…one decision at a time.
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