Sinning by Silence

Sinning by Silence

The other night my daughter Jenna arrived home from basketball, more irate than I’ve ever seen her. I was in bed at the time however she made a point of coming into my bedroom, sitting on the bed and regaling me about a rather ugly incident she had witnessed.

She and two other young girls were “benching” a men’s game and during the game one player felt he had reason to continually verbally  abuse one of the girls over her benching decisions. This girl was brought to tears over the abuse.

Jenna said she wanted to post something about the incident on the basketball association’s Facebook page. By this stage I shared her disgust – and I can imagine my abject fury if it had been Jenna herself receiving the abuse! – and I encouraged Jenna to do the post. However, ultimately she didn’t because, as she informed me the next day, her father had encouraged her to not “stir the pot”.

I spent the rest of the day partly simmering and partly thinking I must be a trouble-maker and too confrontational. However, I also got to thinking – when is staying silent the wise choice?


From “The Sound of Silence”, Paul Simon


Keeping the peace is admirable and also sometimes necessary. Not sweating the small stuff vital for the keeping stress levels low. A meaningful silence is often better than meaningless words. It’s also probably important to not take aim and fire unless you have all the evidence! I wasn’t at the game (as Jenna’s dad was), I didn’t see what occurred. Conceivably, Jenna may have misinterpreted the incident and therefore if she’d fired off the post, it could have unnecessarily hurt and embarrassed certain people.

However, if I’d been there and I had seen the very abuse Jenna described, in my opinion keeping silent would have been enabling. Keeping silent would have signalled endorsement or acceptance of such behaviour. It’s also selfish to put your own need for peace over the need for a child – or anyone – to be protected.  So I like to think I would have spoken up.


Young woman relaxes on lake pier with blanket, watches sunset

And God forbid and heaven help the abuser, if the child had been one of mine!

I’ll stand by what Abraham Lincoln said, for the greater good: “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men”.