Do you mind your own business?
I’d estimate I keep my nose in my personal space about 70 percent of the time and much more often if a situation involves strangers.
Earlier this week, a friend’s Facebook post described being faced with ignoring an altercation between strangers or intervening.
She was at a Cedar Valley department store. A man was loudly berating and verbally abusing his wife, drawing covert attention from several bystanders.
In the moment, my friend considered two divergent responses: minding her own business or stepping in.
Many of us can probably relate to the tension she felt. She’s a person of deep religious and moral beliefs. She prides herself on putting her faith into practice, and she strives to be a good example.
She recalled a previous time she was confronted by a similar situation. She didn’t speak up. Over the years, she has thought about it and wondered what happened to those involved.
She realized she regretted not speaking up. This time, she wanted to behave differently. She intervened.
Did my friend do the right thing? Initially, I’d say it’s a tough call. But I realize that for me, that answer is my attempt to hedge.
If I truly consider my beliefs, feelings, desires and goals, I have to admit my friend did the right thing. It’s also brave, difficult and perhaps an unpopular thing to do, which may further indicate she was correct.
Many of us convey mixed messages to children when it comes to this topic. We want kids to be good, responsible citizens, but we sometimes tell and show them it’s bad to “get involved.” We say if a friend is in trouble, don’t keep the secret. Then they may observe us not taking our own advice when it comes to our friends.
Considering the example I want to set for my daughter, nieces and nephew helps me understand there are situations I must intersect with, not avoid.
Religious, spiritual, moral and biological evidence backs up my friend’s action; human beings probably aren’t built for minding our individual business. From our earliest days, people have gravitated to each other. We pair, expand to groups, create communities and continue to broaden our circles.
Thus this life we live together doesn’t always accommodate staying in your own lane.
Many religions and belief systems cite intervention as a spiritual and moral imperative. A famous example is the Good Samaritan, who had tons of religious, social and cultural reasons to keep walking, and he didn’t. There are scores of additional examples, from Moses and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Abraham Lincoln and Gandhi.
To be clear, I don’t advocate nosiness for the sake of information gathering (read: gossip). Instead, I want to do a better job of asking myself, “Is there the possibility I may later regret being a passive observer of this situation?”
Kevin Daum, a bestselling author and entrepreneur, explained good communication guidelines in Inc. magazine. While his article was intended to spur business people to speak up and take action, his points apply:
Silence is deemed approval.
The greater good should be the priority.
You may not be alone in your thinking.
Demonstrate you are invested.
Golden writes The Courier’s weekly faith and values column. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.