There will be times when acting for truth and justice is challenging and difficult to do, but we must do it.
As I listen to the very sad Penn State frat story this morning, I realize that the people in the situation didn't understand that when it comes to peace and justice and life and death, you have to act--if in doubt, act!
A good way to do this is to always ask yourself, "What is the worse thing that can happen, and how can I prevent that event?" or "At the end of the day, what will I be satisfied with in terms of my action and the end result."
This happened to me recently when people disagreed with my preferred action. I made a decision that even if they didn't agree, I would act anyways as I felt it was the right thing to do. In the end, we all agreed to act, and to this day I know that was the right thing to do.
We have to help one another act with good intent and effort at all times. I always think back to a time when a courageous teacher confronted me on a choice I made in the schoolhouse--I saw the error in my ways and remedied the situation. I learned a lot that day. While my actions weren't intentionally wrong, once the teacher spoke up to me, I could see the need for change and quickly changed.
In another instance, long ago, a teacher confronted me about my use of words in a particular conversation. Again, it was not my intent to use words that were inappropriate, but once the teacher talked to me about it, I was educated and changed my ways in that regard.
I am thankful that the teachers in both of those circumstances had the courage to confront me. I am also glad that they had the wisdom and compassion to confront me with care and concern--it was clear that they were not blaming me, but instead educating me so that I would learn and do things better. Their trust and belief in me was evident.
In most cases of error, we can speak up while issues are small and remedy those issues before any harm is done. If we wait too long to speak up or act, we can actually contribute to the wrong doing. It's essential that we speak up, act with persistence, use compassion and empathy, and work for change in the face of error and wrong doing.
When events happen with children, I apply the same kind of thought. For example if a child is acting in a mildly wrong way on the playground, I'll pull that child aside and explain to them why that action is dangerous or wrong. I'll help them to see what could happen if that action became greater or more frequent, and let them know that small infractions like that can rise to big and bad events if not stopped sooner than later. I usually attach a story from the news or school life to make the lesson real. Students listen and typically stop the behaviors.
We all have to help one another in this world to do the right thing. Our experiences and education, as good as it might be, will be limited in some ways--ways that might include knowledge of varying cultures, communities, data, and information--together we know more, and together we have to coach each other forward in ways that matter.
Just think with regard to the Penn State issue if one student had called 911, a life would probably have been saved. All it would have taken is for one student to excuse himself or herself from the scene and make that 911 call. Instead no one coached each other forward in right ways or made that brave decision. It is such a terrible and sad event, one we have to work to not recreate in the future.