"Silence has long been confused with neutrality, and has been
presented as a necessary condition for humanitarian action."
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was created in opposition to this assumption. When Dr James Orbinski collected the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 at the time when he was President of MSF he said:
"We are not sure that words can always save lives,
but we know that silence can certainly kill."
"All that is necessary for the triumph of
evil is that good men do nothing."
- Edmund Burke
There are times when people don't want to get involved, don't want to take a stand, or don't want to speak up, and they mistakenly believe their silence makes them neutral. While most people don't enjoy conflict, there are many who loathe it to a detriment. Conflict is part of being human, yet it doesn't seem to come natural to be good at facing it. And when conflict comes with injustice, some people often back off even more. I have a difficult time relating to those people. I was raised to voice my opinion and I'm wired to speak up. Keeping my mouth shut is much more challenging.
Make no mistake. There's a time for silence and it has tremendous value. But timing is key. It's much like the Serenity Prayer: 'Accept the things you cannot change; change the things you can; and have the wisdom to know the difference.'
The point here is to have the patience for silence when it will not improve upon understanding, yet the strength to be a voice when it must be heard, and know when it's best for each.
Many a heart has been broken by words left unspoken. I read that somewhere and it stuck with me.
The next time you choose to look the other way, not wanting to get involved, I hope you remember the words of Dr. James Obrinski, "We are not sure that words can always save lives, but we know that silence can certainly kill." Let that soak in.