If I have learned anything over the years, playing it safe is usually the biggest risk…
We could well find ourselves in an unacceptable environment that we
quietly let grow around us.
Martin Niemöller spent seven years in a Nazi concentration camp. He may be known best for his quote:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.
While the quote may appear with some variation of wording, the message I have always taken from it is that we need to stand up when we see injustice. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Some very wise friends have told me for years that at times we must “surrender” and understand what we cannot change. An old college friend (at my age, is there anything other than an “old” college friend? I digress….) and life-long dedicated educator shared with me that in order to survive it might just be better to “not go there.” And, you know at times, that may be the best option. What was it our parents and teachers told us? “Know when to pick your battles.”
Video recommendation for the week:
Consider Minnie Jean Brown-Trickey, though. She was one of the Little Rock Nine. I cannot even imagine what it must have been like for those young students and their parents when they walked through angry mobs into Central High School in 1957. Our nation benefited because those nine young and brave students went there.
Whatever the issue, there are those who will speak up and present a challenge when needed. But many, many, many more will not. They settle for what they believe is the “safe” route. They stay “on point.” Playing it safe is usually the biggest risk. Often times we must go there. If we don’t, we could well find ourselves in an unacceptable environment that we quietly let grow around us.
I’m not advocating boorish, rude, or disrespectful behavior. Integrity to self and those around us must remain. Speaking up and having a true conversation is critical for the health and well-being of any organization. The effective leaders understand this. The same for relationships.
Decades ago, a dear man and at the time an assistant superintendent (I believe) of a school district outside of Boston, gave me poignant advice: “If you surround yourself with ‘yes men’ [or women] they will lead you down the primrose path to destruction.”
Most of us will never face what Martin Niemöller or Mini Jean Brown-Trickey had to endure. But we can make a dent in our universe by standing up, speaking out, and striving to thrive. It doesn’t have to be momentous. Small, measured and well-thought out steps can be effective. And you don’t have to go there alone. A coach, a mentor, a counselor, a friend, a spiritual leader or a family member can guide you. Who can help you? Who can you help?
Being courageous does not mean lack of fear. It means that we persevere in the face of fear. It is not always easy to be brave; it can be scary. And it can be exhilarating. Sara Bareilles sings
And since your history of silence
Won’t do you any good,
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?
Might just be a great place to go.
Make it a wonderful week— H.T.R.B. as needed.
(c) 2014. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.