Scintilla’s Last Day Prompt: Talk about a time when you intervened. What prompted you? Did you regret it?

Don’t worry. I do have an example of my intervening which I will share. But I felt the need to address a few things beforehand.

To begin with, the very concept of my intervening is a tricky one. I rarely do it. That is to say I will step in between two other parties and interrupt the flow of their interaction only in a few specific types of circumstances.

For example, I will do so if everything I have observed leads me to conclude that someone’s life/health is in grave risk. I will also do so if it has become clear to me that someone who is unable to defend or speak for themselves is being in some manner grossly mistreated. Finally, I will intervene if I have determined beyond reasonable doubt that one or more parties is acting in any way from a position of severe mental impairment.

Thankfully, I have not encountered these circumstances in my life.

The threshold is somewhat lower if I and the other party have a deep relationship. That is to say I may step in when someone I love is behaving in a way that I find troublesome, even if not destructive or dangerous. But even then only if I believe that I have a unique opportunity to point out to them the perceived error of their ways.

In other words, it takes a lot of conditions for me to intervene between two parties without being asked. (If I am asked, that is mediating, and not intervening.) I suppose it is because deep down I believe that people ought to be allowed to live as they best determine they must. As well as a reluctance on my part to think I know better than anyone else what is going on. It happens, but not without deep thought or obvious immediate need.

Therefore when I do intervene, it can be quite taxing to me emotionally, and sometimes even physically.

My example of intervening therefore is not especially dramatic in its own right. It is noteworthy, however, because of how much it took for me personally to do so.

Some years ago one of my best friends, (I will call her Stacy here) was having issues with one of her other best friends. (I will call her Janice.) I was familiar and friendly with Janice, but not intimate or deeply connected. Friends on Facebook with both Stacy and Janice at this time, their interactions were visible to me on my feed.

After a time, Janice started to ignore the messages and questions Stacy put on her wall. Understandably, this upset Stacy, and she would occasionally tell me so. I had no reason to believe that what she said about Janice was untrue, and I shared her frustration at the situation. I knew I would feel very much the same in her shoes. But as I said, it wasn’t, strictly speaking, my affair because I had not been asked to render any kind of assistance.

After a few weeks, though, I became concerned, because I thought Stacy was pushing a little too hard against the silence. I sympathized, but I also feared that she might be at the stage where she was doing more harm than good. I know how upset Stacy would be if Janice never spoke to her again. So after much thought on the matter, I called Stacy. (If I opt to make a phone call, you already know something of importance is involved…but I digress.)

Everything I told Stacy was prefaced with, “I am only saying what I am about to say because I love you,” and those sort of things. Truly, this was more for my own sake than for hers, because she respects and appreciates anything that comes from a place of honesty and concern. It was a heavy sense of emotional trespassing that made me feel the need to apologize first.

Yet I had concluded she would be more hurt by the damage she was on the verge of doing to her friendship with Janice, than she could be by my admonitions. So I told her that based on what I had seen between the two of them on Facebook, she was, in my opinion, going overboard, and that perhaps a few weeks of silence from her would go farther in healing the developing rift than trying to engage at the level she had been engaging. I ending by saying I felt it was my duty as her friend to tell her this.

And of course Stacy was fine with me having said these things. In fact she appreciated me taking the time and the effort to say them. (She being aware how difficult it is for me to do such things.) She conceded I may have been right. And though she didn’t go totally dark on Janice, her comments, at least her public ones, significantly decreased. I learned a few weeks later that the two of them were talking again, all be it tentatively. As far as I know, they are still friends today.

While I am not sure if my intervening accomplished any good in the situation, or even if it prevented any more “bad” from entering the situation, I don’t regret having done so. Nor am I proud of it. I just did what I felt was best. I can’t say that I would never be proud of myself for a moment of intervention, but this wasn’t it. Indeed I think most such moments are more like changing a child’s diaper. You don’t regret it, nor do you enjoy it. You’d much rather not have to do so, but you are equally aware that you have no choice. A decent person cannot allow a child to lay around in a dirty diaper. So, you change it.

Should I have intervened on more occasions in my life? Is my reluctance to do so a result of a general respect for the privacy and competence of others, or of a desire to avoid conflict when possible? Can it be a combination of both of these things? Should I consider myself blessed that I have not yet had much need to intervene in some serious matter, or should I wonder what it says about me that I have rarely seen the need? I can’t say. But I ask myself these questions more often than you might think.


(So ends Scintilla. I started it later than most due to this new site having not been launched yet. I am grateful however for the chance to participate in the few days I was around. It helped start my new site off with a bang, and hopefully gained me a few new friends and followers. I hope those who tuned in for my Scintilla commentaries will continue to check in to for new content, roughly twice a week. Until then, thanks for following my abbreviated Scintilla experience. —T.U)

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