Taking the Right Stand or Standing in the Right Place

Jun 27, 2024

Here I am in New York State, vacationing for a week like I do every summer. The Chautauqua Institution, described as “a catalyst for creative exploration, educational growth, relaxation, and recreation,” once again provides me with a much-needed respite from day-to-day stresses and worries.

But the week is not devoid of challenges. While the beauty and nurturing sense of community I find here is unsurpassed in my experience, the speakers and programs are provocative. This year, I am finding Father Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest and the founder of Homeboy Industries—the largest gang intervention and rehabilitation program in the world—to be incredibly stimulating.

One of Father Boyle’s themes occupies my thoughts: Do I care more about taking the right stands or standing in the right place? At first glance, these phrases might seem interchangeable, but Father Boyle’s insights clarify the profound difference.

Taking the Right Stand

Taking the right stand is about principles and values. It's about speaking up for what we believe is right, fighting for justice, and ensuring our voices are heard on critical issues. In today's world, we're often encouraged to take a stand on a myriad of topics, from climate change to social justice. Social media amplifies these stands, giving us a platform to express our views.

Taking the right stand can be empowering. It makes us feel like we're contributing to something greater than ourselves. Whether signing a petition, attending a protest, or simply posting a supportive message online, these actions are crucial in bringing about change. However, taking the right stand can sometimes feel like a solo effort, a statement of our personal beliefs rather than a collective movement.

Standing in the Right Place

On the other hand, standing in the right place is about presence and solidarity. It’s not just about what we believe but also about where we choose to physically and emotionally position ourselves. Standing in the right place means being there for others, offering support, and showing up even when it’s uncomfortable or challenging.

Father Boyle emphasized that standing in the right place often requires more courage and empathy than taking the right stand. It's about aligning yourself with those suffering, marginalized, or oppressed and sharing their struggles. It's about listening more than speaking, understanding more than judging, and supporting more than merely leading.

Personal Reflections

Father Boyle’s talk made me reflect on my own actions. I’ve always been vocal about my beliefs and quick to take a stand on issues that matter to me. But how often have I genuinely stood in the right place? How often have I gone beyond words to offer my presence and support to those who need it most? Or am I merely succumbing to the dangers of self-righteousness and the lure of believing “someone ought to do something” while looking elsewhere for this action?

Moving Forward

Inspired by Father Boyle, I’m making a commitment to stand in the right place. I must be more present for my friends and family and deeply engage with my personal and professional community. Most importantly, I must act in service to the causes I care about more tangibly.

I can easily take a stand from a distance, but standing in the right place requires me to step out of my safe space and immerse myself in the realities of others. I must be there, physically and emotionally, and show up with compassion and empathy.

Let's remember the power of presence in a world where it’s easy to voice our opinions from behind a screen. Let’s strive to take the right stand and stand in the right place where our presence can make a real difference.


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