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“There are times when you must speak, not because you are going to change the other person, but because if you don’t speak, they have changed you.” ~Melissa McEwan

It seems redundant to observe that we live in precarious times.

A time when truth is relative and subjective.

A time when policy is communicated by tweet.

It’s a time of uncertainty and the anxiety it engenders runs rampant.

The bar of civility has been lowered, and the standard for public discourse with it; there are ways to converse without condemning.

Yet, there are times that demand a standing up and speaking out. Not, as Melissa McEwan says, because doing so will necessarily change anything, but because not to do so will change you.

I had an opportunity recently to speak up in the face of flagrantly inappropriate behaviour. Before I found the quote above, I spoke up because at some very deep level I realized that not to do so would have cost me some invisible, immeasurable bit of my self-esteem and with it, my sense of integrity.

Seems to me that character is undermined, eaten away from within, like termites of the soul, each small choice to walk away, turn our back, or hold our tongue, when everything inside us screams “this is wrong.”

With each small moment of choice—easily dismissed in our attempts to keep the peace, or not rock the boat—dissipation occurs.

Over time, the infinitesimal adds up, chipping away at our strength and courage and determination.

It chips away at our ability to set boundaries and articulate them.

Ultimately, it even chips away at our willingness to care.

Apathy will kill the character of a country on a collective level as much as it will the people who comprise it on an individual level; to remain mute slowly kills the roots of connection and compassion.

I believe we can do both. We can stand up and speak out about things that really matter to us and still remain civil. We can be clear and direct and remain courteous. It’s not easy, but it’s something to aspire to.

And it starts—as somebody famous must have already said a million times—one person at a time.

It starts with you and me.

Inside, where character takes root.

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