When We Protect Ourselves First


He was a no name assistant on a team full high profile talent. His superiors were household names throughout town. They were the people everyone talked about and looked up to.

One devastating day, this no name member of the team saw one of his superiors commit a horrible crime. Usually the witness of a crime calls the police. These isn’t much to debate here. However, he didn’t reach for a telephone. He thought too much, and we’re left to speculate on what went through his mind…

If he called the police, there would be a scandal. The lowly assistant would receive criticism as a whistle blower. There would be allegations made, the superior would most likely deny them, and who knows what would happen in the midst of a trial. It was his word against the word of a superior. Who would believe him?

To make matters worse, he would most likely be fired or marginalized. Who would hire a whistleblower who didn’t know his place?

What should a lowly, assistant do if he wants to protect himself?

There are easy ways out and half measures available, and he opted for that route. He followed the kind of procedures you’d observe when dealing with financial indiscretions, not a major crime. He reported the crime to his superiors, and they followed the same strategy of doing something without doing enough.

In the process, the no name assistant was able to take some kind of action without appearing disloyal. He told his other superiors without causing a national scandal. He protected himself. Who doesn’t want to protect himself?

Selfishness shines through in this story. It is a cancer that prevents us from seeing the world through the eyes of others, the victims and the weak. Selfishness seeks to ensure our own safety and security above the well-being of others. It asks, “What’s right for me?” regardless of the consequences to others.

I confess that I often want to protect myself, to preserve my own comfort at the expense of others. I don’t like the thought of taking a stand and alienating myself among the people I like.

It never feels good to be alienated or rejected by your own people, to lose colleagues because you don’t see eye to eye on ethical matters, let alone a crime. So, instead of being rejected by my own tribe, I look for half-measures, easy ways out that can preserve a shred of my integrity without offending “good people.”

Jesus tells us to love our enemies.

The prophets demand that we pay our workers fair wages.

God tells us that he hates injustice.

I read these words and look for easy ways out. I don’t want to choose a path that is too costly. I look for half-measures. I don’t want to be the whistleblower who challenges the rest of my team.

It’s all so clear when the story involves sex abuse and a college football team, but when it comes down to my views on war, the policies I protest, the shopping decisions I make, the ways I donate money, etc… the lines become murky again.

Should they?

It may help to remember that ten or twenty years from now, we’ll all look back at our lives and begin to ask ourselves, “Did I choose the right course or did I only try to protect myself?” With the benefit of hindsight, we’ll see the fruit that comes from our decisions. We’ll see whether we benefited from self-preservation or from serving and preserving others.

May God give us the courage to protect those who are vulnerable and abused.

6 thoughts on “When We Protect Ourselves First

  1. Michael

    Hard choices to be sure. The problem is that the easy choices often lead to even harder choices. May the good thoughts here lead to better actions.

  2. Ray Hollenbach

    Thanks for the reminder that, in the end, the one who tries to save his life will lose it, and the one who loses his life will find it. May God himself strengthen each of us.

  3. Pingback: See Something? Say Something : Ordinary Mer

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