There is a time to be diplomatic and to stay out of a conflict, but there is also a time to take risks and get involved

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From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 7 – Some more of the ways in which we must become faithful

It is usually wrong to get involved in another person’s quarrel or dispute, The general rule is that we should stay out of it unless there is a good reason to get involved. But if there is a duty to help, or if our conscience tells us we should, then we must come forward, give evidence, or do whatever else is required of us, even if it is risky to us. There may be factors which require you to speak up and defend someone, even if it jeopardises your own position. If so, you need to brace yourself and do your duty.

I can think of a particularly heated and protracted dispute which had been going on for some time. It involved parties, who were all well known to me. Initially I stayed out of it, hoping it would resolve itself without me having to step in or take sides. I knew it would cause problems for me if I did get involved.

However the dispute eventually became very nasty and unfair. False accusations were being made by the blameworthy party against the innocent party. Therefore I felt, in the end, that I needed to speak up openly. The event which prompted it was when the person whom I considered to be at fault rang me up and spoke very unfairly and aggressively about the innocent party. I told them, straightforwardly, that I believed that they were actually the one in the wrong.

Later a meeting took place and again I spoke frankly. It did not resolve the dispute, but I felt that the innocent party needed me to speak out. They were reeling from a series of blows being landed on them and needed to be openly supported. They were being harmed, both emotionally and spiritually. Therefore it was no longer possible for me to remain neutral. Too much was at stake for them and a deep injustice was being done.

So, that was a case where I got openly involved and I think it was right to do so, even though the wrongdoers ended up insulting and resenting me as a result of my having spoken up for the innocent party. But I can also remember a situation about 20 years ago where, very unwisely, I allowed myself to be manipulated into joining in with someone else’s dispute at work. It all ended badly for me and nothing useful was achieved. The person who had enlisted my help was just using me for his own selfish purposes, to advance himself at someone else’s expense.

I realised that later, but only when it was too late. I had allowed myself to be used by another man in his own private battle with a colleague. It turned out he was no more right than the other person was, and no profound issues of justice were involved. I misjudged the situation badly and took sides, mainly because I simply preferred him to the other person. I therefore assumed he must be in the right. But I had never looked into it deeply, or weighed it up carefully. I had never prayed about it either, i.e. as to whether to get involved. I just went ahead without seeking God’s guidance. That was asking for trouble.

I can recall another occasion, when I was a very young and inexperienced police constable. We received a new shift inspector who was a woman. That was rare in those days. The whole shift felt that she was not very good at her job, and that she had been given accelerated promotion solely due to being female. They were probably right.

She was not liked by the shift and the older men in particular bristled at her abrasive style. She lacked people skills, had very little tact, and was not as effective as the other inspectors. Things got very bad and the atmosphere on the shift declined. Morale was low and, in the end, some of the older constables became insubordinate to her, usually covertly, but sometimes openly. It all went over my head. I was too junior at the time to play any part in it.

However it got so bad in the end that the Superintendent came in to carry out an enquiry into what was going wrong on our shift. He questioned us, one by one, in front of the Inspector. I was so naïve that I gave frank, honest answers and told the Superintendent that part of the problem was the Inspector’s abrasive manner etc. I said it in front of her. It seemed to me that I had been asked a straightforward question and that I therefore needed to answer it truthfully.

However, it achieved no good and my transparency just did me harm. The rest of the shift, having savagely criticised the Inspector behind her back, were shrewd enough to keep quiet and even to be sycophantic, in that formal interview, while she was present. Ironically, I was the only one to criticise the Inspector openly, even though I was the one who felt the least discontented and who had said the least up to that point. It was purely due to my naivety. I did not realise that that was an occasion when no good could come from my speaking up and that silence was the only wise policy.

Ask God to help you never to compromise and never to betray Him

As with any difficult task, if you are going to succeed, you will need God’s help. That is very much the case here. To be faithful to God will require prayer. You need to ask Him to help you never to compromise, even on so called ‘small’ issues, and never to betray Him. If you don’t pray, then you may have to manage it on your own, which is impossible. Don’t even attempt that. Be wise enough to realise that you always need God’s help, and especially so where difficult issues are involved and wisdom is needed.

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