Elliot was on the horns of a dilemma. A sophomore in high school, Elliot had knowledge that a certain classmate everyone detested had been falsely accused of stealing several hundred dollars from a teacher’s purse. He was not the thief—Elliot saw his friend take the money. Was loyalty or truth more important? He didn’t know what to do.
As we talked together, Elliot said that it would be easiest to do nothing. There was nothing that associated him with knowledge about the crime. He could stay free and clear of the problem.
One of my personal mentors along my life journey, M. Scott Peck, once wrote, “Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom.” I suggested to Elliot that the easy way out was often the worst way out and that maybe he needed to live with his problem for a while. It would be uncomfortable, but I would help him hold it.
As the cacophony in our public sphere ramps into ever-higher decibels, character looms large as an important frame of reference for the body politic, for citizens generally, for persons like you and me personally—an ever-present dimension of human experience. Nearly every day presents us with the “problem” of character. I so wish there would be a whole lot more shared “holding” the weight of it.