This sermon was written by and published for Edan :
One of our maxims, and one I see written occasionally elsewhere on the forum, is “Intervention: To know when not to act.”
Finding the line between action and inaction can be a delicate one and require a balancing of potential outcomes.
However, I suspect that sometimes deciding not to act is not done out of proper reasoning, but out of fear or, worse, complacency.
Sometimes there is no obvious decision to make, no easy way to estimate what the outcome of an action can be, and so we’re left with a dilemma. To act, or not to act?
If we are afraid of an outcome we may say to ourselves that we are making a reasonable decision; we have decided not to act and contented ourselves with that. Not every right action though is going to be an easy one. It might require our time, our energy, or other sacrifices that others may not be willing to make.
I want to share a couple of stories with you. The first, of a woman who decided to act:
From Time magazine:
"When Domino’s delivery person Susan Guy noticed that one of her loyal customers, Jean Wilson, hadn’t ordered a pizza in three days, she started to worry. Wilson, an elderly woman living alone, had ordered a large pepperoni pizza everyday for the past three years. Guessing that something was wrong, Guy insisted in that she had to check on the customer. When there was no answer at Wilson’s door, Guy called the police who knocked down the door. Inside, they found an injured Wilson who had fallen and was unable to reach the telephone to call for help.”
And another, where it took 15 minutes for someone on a carriage full of people to help a man who collapsed:
From Huffington Post:
The article begins with a video of a man collapsing to the floor, "As he falls, fellow passengers look over but none go to his aid. The footage continues as the train stops in Great Portland Street after a woman pulls the emergency stop handle. All the passengers get off, some stepping over him, leaving the man on the floor. Two London Underground staff can be seen talking as they look at the man but neither go to help. The unidentified man who shot the footage said: "I could not believe it, he hit the ground with such force. People just stared at him. I wish I had done more to help but I was with my two children at the time. It was shocking that no one went to help him - people just stepped over him or stayed on their seats and carried on having a natter. He was eventually helped by a good samaritan after about 15 minutes of just lying there before the paramedics and police arrived to take him away.”
There is something that psychologists call the ‘bystander effect’where individuals will not help someone in trouble because they believe that another will or, because they see no-one helping, they too decide not to help. The more witnesses the more individuals diffuse responsibility to those around them. In other words, the bystander effect means we choose not to act when we should, so we may have to push ourselves out of our comfort zones to do the right thing. We cannot assume that another will act for us. I don’t mean this just in terms of one person needing help in the street or on the train, like the stories above, I mean also things like giving food to food banks where it’s really easy to think ‘someone else will help.’
When making a decision whether to act, here are some of the 16 Teachings you may like to consider:
"10. Jedi serve in many ways. Each action performed, no matter the scale, influences the world. With this in mind Jedi perform each action with peace, caring, love, compassion and humility. So it is that each Jedi improves the world with each deed they perform.”
"12. Jedi believe that love and compassion are central to their lives. We must love and care for each other as we must love and care for ourselves; by doing this we envelop all life in the positivity of our actions and thoughts. We are providers and beacons of hope.”
"13. Jedi cultivate empathy. We try to view things from another’s perspective making us sensitive listeners. We provide the confidence people need when talking through their difficulties and we share our learning with those who would benefit. We do this to help create a more harmonious society. “
By all means follow the maxim ‘To know when not to act’, but please, do not be afraid to act.