Sometimes being neutral is just apathy. We claim neutrality, because we don’t want to take the time or effort to care. We don’t want to find out too much, because knowledge comes with responsibility. We’ve seen how information has impacted others. We’ve seen anger, stubbornness, and what seems to be futile arguments, and we don’t want any part of it. But when we avoid the negativity that can come with familiarity with an issue or situation, we also miss out on possible compassion.
We can’t be invested in every single issue, but when we’re faced with it, we need to explore it with honesty and sensitivity. We will always be able to find someone who knows more or is more passionate about an issue than we are, but that doesn’t mean we refuse to ask questions and make a difference in a small way.
As we pursue truth and justice, we might see a couple different perspectives, and we feel we’re neutral, but perhaps it’s just that we stand on some shared ground. We still care. We still listen. We’re not apathetic. We need to check out motivation behind claiming neutrality. If it’s the easy way out, we’re not taking responsibility. Apathy is dangerous, unstable ground on which to stand.
I recently drained the battery of the van while sitting in Kohl’s parking lot waiting for the girls to get done shopping. Instead of waiting for roadside assistance, I thought of someone who lives ten minutes away. He was soon on his way. Just as I was wondering how he was going to pull alongside the van when he arrived, the car to my left backed out. I jumped out to stand in the empty space, hoping to keep it clear until help arrived.
Busy department store. An empty parking space close to the doors. Congested shopping a couple days before Christmas. Well…at least it wasn’t as cold as it had been recently. I watched many faces of people who spotted the great parking spot and frantically tried to reach it before someone else. I saw puzzling looks when they saw me standing in the space. I’d smile and motion for someone to roll down a window so I could apologize for the inconvenience after a brief explanation that I was trying to save the space for someone to help me.
What a myriad of responses…
- Several smiled understandably.
- A couple people asked if I needed help.
- One asked if I needed jumper cables. “No, thanks,” I said. He responded, “Well, I don’t mind jump-starting the car if you let me park here.”
- One man looked as if he didn’t believe me but later walked by and told me how odd it was that I couldn’t start my van. His wife had the same issue two rows from the same parking space a couple weeks earlier. He arrived to help and was waiting for an adjacent space. When it became available, someone quickly zipped into it and refused to move even after hearing their story.
- One man told me he wouldn’t make a big deal about it, but if he came out and saw I’d simply been saving the space for a friend, I might find my tires slashed. I didn’t know if he was kidding. It hadn’t occurred to me that people would think I was scamming.
- One car, driven by a young woman accompanied by, perhaps, her mom, began to pull into the space despite me standing in it. I motioned for the mom to roll down the window. The driver kept inching her way closer to me. I explained, and the mom laughed while looking at her daughter, who looked disgusted and determined to move forward. She sat there for at least 30 seconds, staring straight ahead. The mom continued to laugh and look between me and her daughter. I apologized several times and thanked them for understanding. The car began to move slightly, but just as it passed me a little more, the driver tried to cut back into the space – then slammed on her brakes, rolled her eyes and drove on.
I have to admit…there have been times I’ve responded with irritation when I feel inconvenienced. There are times I respond with irritation when I feel inconvenienced. I hope those times are less frequent, but I’m just being honest – I don’t always respond with patience, love and understanding.
We can all find situations in which we’ve been generous. We sacrifice our time or convenience for someone else. But what about the times we respond on the other end of the spectrum? In what situations have you responded with anger, irritation or apathy when you could have responded with patience, generosity, and compassion?
Be honest with yourself. And watch for opportunities to choose well…today.
This is my prayer for you: that your love will grow more and more; that you will have knowledge and understanding with your love; that you will see the difference between good and bad and will choose the good. Philippians 1:9-10