Friday, June 6, 2014

When We Protect By Attack

Have you ever been a part of a community when war suddenly breaks out within it? It begins with two people in the group getting into a disagreement, sometimes a big one... and before you know it, the entire community has taken sides, drawn lines in the sand, and begun pelting each other with word bombs.

To my chagrin, I must admit to having done this. I've taken the side of someone I cared about (that's not cringe-worthy, necessarily)... but I've participated in the attacks on the people who sat on the other side. But, far worse, I must admit to being part of the original disagreement. I must admit to letting people take my side. And I must admit to saying nothing when people who took my side defended me by attacking those on the other.

There is a kind of smug satisfaction that comes when people defend you in that way. It feels like a validation that you're the one that's right -- that people care so much about the offenses done to you that they're willing to attack in your name. If that's so, clearly you must be the victim. Clearly, you are the one worthy of that sort of support. Clearly, you are the one who is right.

But... perhaps it says something about you that people are willing to attack others in your name. But more, it says something about you that you are willing to let them. That you being right and you being the victim is more important than exhibiting kindness and compassion. That you being right is worth other people being attacked.

I know the temptation to protest, "Oh, but I haven't asked them to do that... they're making their own choices!" Like this absolves me of guilt.... but, in truth, it does not. For, if I said something, if I protested that it wasn't right to treat others in that way, don't you think that it would have an effect? The way people defend us, and the way we let them, it says something about who we are.

And if you're the person thinking that attacking someone else is a good way to protect and defend the person you love... Stop and think about that. Stop and think about what that says about you... and what you're saying about the person you're trying to protect.

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