Imagine you are standing amongst a group of kids. You’re facing two other kids who are looking at you with a careful, critical eye. You can see little wheels spinning in their heads while they make their choices. Basically, they are thinking one of two things.
Who will help me win the game we’re about to play (“I want them on my team”) or who will lose it for us (“I absolutely don’t want them on my team”)?
I was a part of this scene dozens of times during my childhood, both as the one making the choices and as the one hoping not to be chosen last.
There is a tremendous emotional imprint made during these sessions which can last a lifetime. It can also affect your self-esteem level, which carries forward to many other situations.
I realize that choosing sides seems to be a part of life and perhaps I would be wise just to accept it.
But I can’t. There is too much at stake.
Every way you look there are expectations for you to make a decision on who to support. Which sports team, political party, religion, talking head, family member, TV show, you name it. You are expected to agree with a certain number of important figures in your life, family members, teachers, business leaders, all to show your allegiance.
But what if you disagree with the crowd? Or, as some others will see it, worst yet, have no opinion at all?
There could be some trouble in that for you, couldn’t there?
Earlier in my life I didn’t have many opinions and I only reluctantly chose sides. Well, except for football, because of course I knew who the best team was. Or did I?
Being forced to choose a side is a tricky thing. Suppose you have no real opinion, or you don’t truly know all of the facts, or you don’t care which side seems to be ‘more right’? In many situations you are expected to choose a side…the ‘right side’ of course. Staying neutral can be dangerous and can place you outside of your group, family, or nation.
Okay, so why would anyone hesitate?
Well, the first reason is that once you choose a side, it makes it very difficult to understand those on the other side. It’s as if your brain goes on strike. It says, “I’ve come to a conclusion and I’m sticking with it and now I don’t have to think any more…case closed”!
You want to talk about dangerous, there it is.
A second reason is that you might feel as though you are missing something. How could there be all these other people who have decided another way is better? What do they know that you don’t? Are there some facts you are unaware of? Maybe it would be valuable to talk with them and find out.
And here’s another thing that happens when you choose a side. Huge rifts are created, and greed and envy polarize positions making it impossible to see beyond them. Wars and territorial issues surface. Borders and fences of all sorts are erected. And emotional attachments harden hearts.
So, what if we didn’t choose sides? Would society collapse? Would there be chaos?
What if we searched for some common ground? What if we were willing to listen so that we could truly know the fuller story? What if we were willing to compromise for the sake of unity? What if winning and losing became unimportant, but everyone gaining peace and harmony took center stage?
And there is more at stake because having to take sides has an emotional impact on each one of us. Being forced to comply with arbitrary positions corrupts us, makes us smaller and weaker as people and blankets our free will which is one of our greatest gifts.
Well, perhaps I am choosing a side after all, one where we aim toward peace and understanding and harmony. I can live with that one.