The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept. - Lieutenant General David Morrison
One who condones evils is just as guilty as the one who perpetrates it. - Martin Luther King
I like hats – fedoras, newsboy hats, my Tilley that has over a million airmiles on it and yes, even bowler hats.
I was recently in my remote office (translation: Starbucks) politely waiting for my coffee when I noticed two men in their late twenties smirking at me and my bowler hat. My ego is not easily bruised or cowed by people and so I ignored them.
I was content to accept my coffee and walk out the door when I heard one say to the other, “He’s probably some kind of f*ing faggot.”
The comments between them escalated in insult-intensity as I waited for my coffee until it reached a level that I was sure would draw a response from baristas or other customers. I knew that the likely source of anger from the pair of miscreants was a personal sense of inadequacy and they were hoping that I would either cower from their wilting words or rise up in anger against them. It was two against one after all.
I watched with interest as the baristas and customers observed this interaction and I was curious what they might do.
They never made a sound.
I’m a believer in live and let live, judge not lest ye be judged, being “the big man” and walking away from the ignorant and all of that stuff.
However, I’m also a believer in the reality that that which we accept, we condone and that which we condone, we ultimately support and allow to be propagated.
What stood before me were two ignorant men insulting a customer, using derogatory language that is simply not acceptable in today’s world. If they would insult me (standing at an athletic 6’3) what would they say to someone much smaller?
And so when my coffee arrived, I walked over to the two men and they faced me in the “what are you going to do about it?” defiant stance.
I looked the two of them up and down, each weighing at least 300 pounds, their pants not pulled up completely, their shirt tails hanging out but not completely covering their guts, their faces unshaven and their baseball hats on sideways.
I smiled at them and said quietly, “I’ll be damned if I will take fashion advice or criticism from two ignorant men who don’t have the wherewithal to dress properly. Understand?”
Both men looked down at the floor and said nothing.
“The next time you want to look at someone to judge them or to suggest ways for them to improve to meet your so-called standard”, I continued, “Start with the man you see in the mirror. When that man is everything that that man can be, then perhaps you will be in a position to judge others but not before.”
As I turned to leave, both of them continued to stare at their boots, saying nothing.
“Create a great day”, I said as I walked out of the coffee shop.
The Bottom Line
We often look the other way when someone says or does something we don’t agree with.
“It’s not our business”, we think or “It’s not right to judge others”, “I was the bigger man and walked away”, they’re just having a bad day”, “they have an illness and it’s not their fault.”, etc.
Well, these things apply on occasion.
However, we must be careful lest such thinking becomes a source of leverage for some people to use as a licence to abuse and hurt others.
Sometimes we are meant to be the person who stands in front of someone else and corrects their behavior.
It’s not a question of judging them, playing the role of “holier than thou” or splitting hairs over a point of political correctness.
Sometimes we just know what is wrong and we need to stand up to it and correct it.
My comments may or may not have corrected their behavior.
However, the more people who allow them to do what they do by saying and doing nothing, the more likely ignorant people such as these guys will feel empowered to continue to do what they do.
Such behavior only stops when we stand up to challenge it and correct it.
What do you stand for?
Is what you stand for reflected in your thoughts, your words and your actions?
The reality is that the world only gets better when your actions speak so loudly that we can’t hear what you’re saying.
So what DO you stand for?
In service and servanthood,
PS Just as I mused in Being Drawn Into Anger? Understand the Downside First, it is important to be cognizant of one's actions before blindly churning out insults. I might have been one taunt away from hurting myself if such abuse were common in my Life or I might have taken my 6'3 self (complete with martial arts training and / or a weapon) and waited outside for them, to respond to ignorance with an equally ignorant act that would have hurt someone. We have better control of our mouth and our actions than we claim to have. It's time we acknowledge and demonstrate such control before we hurt someone else or allow someone else to be hurt.