Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Courage … But Only From a Distance

Some years ago, I was cut off by a driver who grazed my car bumper while I was parked.  Even though I was parked and she had hit me, she proceeded to issue a litany of phrases that can’t be repeated here.  Curious as to why she was so angry after hitting me, I lifted my 6’3” frame out of my vehicle and proceeded to her vehicle.

It was at that point that she realized that the safety of distance between our two vehicles no longer existed and that my frame towering over her small car now presented an entirely different situation than the one she thought she was in control of.

She muttered something and quickly drove off.

Social media, for all its good stuff, presents a similar gap that I believe is creating a dialog that is detrimental to society.

For example, I made some observations about the Occupy Wall St. movement some time ago that prompted some folks to send me death threats, offering to kill me as a representative of the capitalist system.

Now, if these people had been standing in front of my 6’3” frame, were cognizant of my martial arts training and knew of my personal belief to stand up to bullies at any cost, do you think they would have had the courage to shout such threats to my face?

I doubt it.

The other day, I happened to make a comment on Facebook about the warming / cooling cycles that the Earth has experienced in its lifetime and the insulting comments that followed surprised and disappointed me – comments that I suspect people would not have expressed if we were having a passionate conversation in a coffee shop.

How about the many people around the world who have expressed hateful comments in the Trayvon Martin case (on both sides, may I add), mostly through Facebook, Twitter and other social media that allows them to vent their hatred and calls for violence from the comfort and safety of their own home.

Unfortunately, their belief that the gap and perceived anonymity provides safety is merely an illusion.

For example, some of the people sending me death threats stopped sending them to me when I demonstrated that I had possession of their home addresses and was prepared to contact authorities.

Suddenly there was silence.

To spread hatred, intolerance or intimidation as many are doing in social media actually adds layers of complexity and confusion to the world as we attempt to work together to solve the world’s challenges.  It whips people up into a frenzy to the point where facts don’t matter – our fight-or-flight mechanism kicks in and we see the opposite side of the dialog as someone who threatens our very existence and we respond as such.

Meanwhile, as we use the illusion of anonymity (and implied safety) to spread hatred, confusion and our opinion (presented as the only “facts” that matter), the people that we charge with our safety are also watching with ever-increasing concern.

At some point, if we continue to allow our hate levels to grow, the pot will boil over and the people who we look to for our safety will be forced to take extraordinary measures to ensure our safety.

It will be at that point that the people who thought they could spout hatred from a distance will discover that they have brought the results of such actions much closer to home.


I’m not asking people to stop spreading hatred.  In fact, my one voice is not loud enough to be heard above the din of hatred that is out there and I could wear myself out pleading with the hate-filled and ignorant of the world.  There’s nothing more that these people enjoy than an opportunity to justify why they are filled with such negativity and so arguments with such people can never be won.

However, I will say that the those whom we charge with our safety, (including our government leaders) are willing and prepared to do what it takes to ensure our safety moving forward.

Are the people who are spreading hate willing to do what it takes to not force their hand and instead, try working together towards solutions …. while solutions are still within our reach?

Hatred reaches across the miles pretty quickly and influences many, even in anonymity.  It also takes relatively little effort.

Love, respect, patience and open-mindedness also reach across the miles pretty quickly, with the potential to influence many.

The challenge is that love, respect, patience and open-mindedness often require significant levels of courage and effort.

Courage and effort that produces a much better result.

I think it’s worth it.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,



  1. I love this... "love, respect, patience and open-mindedness often require significant levels of courage and effort"

    thank you!!


  2. I enjoyed reading these observations/stories. Just wanted to pass along that some time ago a friend and I were discussing this very thing -- people who exhibit this overblown sense of courage, or brvado if you will, when physically at a distance from you which then shrinks and turns into sometimes almost fear when the physical gap is reduced (which of course as you observe, does not happen in the online world). My friend coined a term for this years ago which I have not heard anyone else use: "distance courage". But your title is amazingly close to repeating that.

  3. Thank you both for your kind comments!

    Create a great day!