Courage? Or Cowardice?

Is this courage or cowardice?

Issue A arises inside an organization. The issue is more than a purely academic one; the way A is resolved will set the organization’s direction in the future. There are sound opinions on both sides of the issue, and is was possible at the beginning of the debate to work toward a thoughtful synthesis of those opinions. But a few key individuals drew immovable battle lines early in the discussion instead of going out for coffee to talk through their differences. There is no middle ground. Everyone in the organization seems to be taking sides.

A leader (let’s call him Mr. X) is watching from the sidelines as the rhetoric between his coworkers grows more intense. He has an opinion, but his instincts toward self-preservation and his love of a steady paycheck cause him to keep that opinion to himself at the organization’s meetings and throughout the battle of e-mails and memos about the issue. A sizeable percentage of the organization’s members are being hurt by the war of words, and the entire organization seems to be emotionally paralyzed by A. Mr. X tries to quietly encourage some of his underlings by sharing his opinion about A with them, but never “outs” himself to his coworkers. He’s like Switzerland – an oasis of neutrality – at staff meetings.

Mr. X gets a way better job offer as the battle reaches its zenith, and he leaves with the organization’s blessing for much greener, safer pastures, where his career thrives. The radioactive nature of the debate aroound A eventually causes several key individuals to leave the organization. Mr. X follows the gyrations from afar.

It’s now more than a decade since Mr. X left the organization. He still works in the same field, and interacts with some of his former coworkers on a professional level. He’s a communicator, and writes about his experience at the organization a decade ago around A. He describes the battle, and celebrates by name a couple of individuals who expressed courage back then. But mostly, he points at himself, expressing great regret at his choice to remain silent, rather than entering the battle. He isn’t sure he could made much of a difference in the entrenched positions his coworkers chose, but he’s sure he could have made a big difference in the lives of those underlings who might have been looking to him for leadership on this issue.

I’ve written myself about some of my own unfortuate church situations – and I haven’t always gotten those messes right in the midst of the battle, either. I am grateful for the wise hindsight that comes from time away from the situation, time in the Word and a ravenous desire for God’s healing. I’ve been told that the transparent words about the messes both around me and inside of me have been helpful to others experiencing the same kinds of issues in their own lives. Are we only supposed to write about the things we get right? Are we only supposed to tell hero stories, or do we need to hear stories about broken, sinful people who turn A (or B, C, D or Z) into the hill they’re willing to die on so that others can figure out how to navigate their own A’s?

I’ve heard a few people say that Mr. X’s post-mortem account of A seems cowardly. What do you think?

About Michelle Van Loon
  • Tim Aagard

    Definitely cowardly. But, in my opinion, the whole institutionalized system of believers connecting to each other is cowardly- walking by sight, not by faith. (I assumed this was an institutional setting because it sounded so familiar.) When money is a player in our relationships, everything gets warped. There is a way for believers to connect that is non-institutional. Many believers have learned to give up denominationalism. It will be much harder, but with the Spirits power, they can also give up insitutionalism. 100% of the giving goes beyond you. No pooling of money to hire experts to whom you outsource your responsibilities and coast along in crowd oriented gatherings.


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