Neutrality Is Not The Point

Neutrality is good for a start, but by itself it’s no good to anyone.

Knowledge is useful. Understanding, insight, wisdom: these are gifts in times of confusion and conflict, and they are available to you whether you’re in the fight or standing by. Remaining neutral does not guarantee a clear view of things.

I lived in Northern Ireland for nine months in 1998-99. I was a neutral American observer to a complex, longstanding conflict. I had friends on both sides of it, and I strenuously protected a neutral point of view. That was a good way for a young, ignorant, outsider to form short-term relationships of good will. Had I stayed there longer and invested in meaningful work, though, my impact would have required some choices that, to someone, would have appeared less-than-neutral.

“Seeing both sides” of an issue is the beginning of resolution, not the end. Shoulder shrugging solves nothing.

Neutrality is a means, not an end. It’s less valuable than truth or compassion. By all means, listen to everyone and try your damndest to understand the range of claims and counterclaims at play, but when the time comes for you to loosen your grip on the safety railing of neutrality, fear not.

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