The Appalling Silence of Good People


"I often ask myself, 'What am I silent about? Are there injustices going on around me that I don’t recognize?'" ~ Richard Stearns, President, World Vision United States

Every January we honor one of the greatest men in our country’s history, Martin Luther King, Jr. I do a lot of speaking around the country, and in almost every speech I find a way to include this quote from King: “We will have to repent in this generation, not only for the evil words and deeds of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.” 

I often ask myself, “What am I silent about?” Are there injustices going on around me that I don’t recognize?


Just a few generations back, slave owners went to church on Sunday morning, then beat or raped their slaves on Sunday evening. Were there opposing voices within the church at that time? Yes, but the majority voices prevailed, and slavery went on for hundreds of years. My own parents lived in an America that denied African Americans their basic human rights and simple human dignity. Does this shame you like it shames me? How could they be so blind, we ask?

But are you and I any better? What are the injustices that we are missing?

Think broadly here — beyond just a wrong done to a person. I think it’s also an injustice when a person is suffering and we can help but don’t. 

The gaping disparities between the haves and the have-nots is injustice. 

It’s tempting to say, “that’s someone else’s responsibility, not mine.” Someone smarter or richer or more powerful. Other people, not me. But amazingly, God has entrusted this work of fighting injustice to His people — to you and to me. That’s why King was so vocal about the “appalling silence of the good people.”

Do you see a problem that needs fixing? A justice that needs righting? Be like King. Don’t turn back. Don’t turn away. Don’t wait and hope for someone else to come along. Take the advice of another of my favorite activists, Mohandas Gandhi: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”

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