I read the most interesting statement recently. Let’s put it in context. The man was writing about his workplace. He observed (as everyone who works alongside others understands) that there is sometimes “too much drama,” as he put it, that gets in the way of accomplishing the business they are hired to do. So, he wrote about his way of avoiding the drama. He said: “I just sort of go along and get along.”
Okay, on the one hand I get that—especially in the environment he was describing. I deeply respect people who make an intentional commitment not to add to the drama around them, nor even to participate in it. But, if you take his phrase out of its immediate context and seek to apply it in numerous other ways, wouldn’t it be sad (even dangerous) if we ever decided merely to “go along and get along”?
A college sophomore testified in court regarding the hazing death of a young pledge to his fraternity. Certainly the death was unintentional, but hazing is purely wrong, and too many horror stories have resulted from it. In any event, the young man said: “I knew what they did was wrong, and I refused to be part of it.” The D.A. asked: “And what actions did you take to stop what was being done?” The student answered: “I didn’t take any action.” “Did you say anything?,” the attorney persisted. “No, sir,” answered the student. “I remained silent.” In short, by doing nothing he “went along,” and the outcome was tragic.
Sometimes we go along with things that we find uncomfortable in order to get along with the others who do them. Young people experience this in groups where activities involving alcohol, drugs, sex, bullying, or a host of other things are on the table. Perhaps they have been brought up to recognize that this activity or that decision is inconsistent with their ethics and belief systems. But, they want to be accepted by (to “get along” with) their peers, so they go along. That is not, however, the private domain of the young. We adults do the same thing. We observe a supervisor treating an employee unfairly, but we say nothing in order not to jeopardize our own employment. We see someone being excluded as a victim of prejudice, but we say nothing in order to avoid being excluded ourselves. We hear gossip being shared, and though we do not add to it, neither do we walk away. We listen in order to get along, so that we will not be the next person talked about. “I just sort of go along and get along.”
I quote the verse so often, as do all other Christian preachers and teachers. And we do so because it is so poignantly pertinent. Jesus said: “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12) Sometimes that includes standing up, stepping forward, speaking out. Martin Luther King rightly observed: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”