Recently, my husband and I went to a fundraising event. It was a variety show of sorts. We made an effort to go, even though we don’t often get out because we have two little kids. We wanted to connect with the people my husband works with, show support, and be team players. Partway through the show, one of the performers warned us that there was an “inappropriate” part coming up, but we stayed put, innocently assuming they didn’t really mean it. But, as the act progressed, I got more and more uncomfortable. And I didn’t know what to do.
As I squirmed in my seat, I tried to block out what was happening by looking at my phone. I scrolled through Instagram and Pinterest and tried to find a blog post to read. I whispered to my husband about leaving. He was worried about making a scene. I was worried about that too, especially because we were sitting on the front row! But I was even more worried about the filth spewing from the microphone and into my ears. I decided to fake a phone call and walk out.
That night, I learned why walking out of a bad situation is so hard. I used to think that walking out was an obvious choice between good and evil, but in the moment it doesn’t feel so clear cut. The feelings and thoughts of those around you are incredibly present, pressing against your own. You wonder what they would think, but you also don’t want to offend, especially if they are people you love and respect. At the same time, the wrongness of the media or activity is so real that there is no doubt to you what is wrong and what is right. But you don’t know how to take action.
There is a fine line to walk between truth and tolerance. Sometimes we need to consider those around us, but we need to know the line we can’t cross. President Hinckley said,
Let us reach out to those in our community who are not of our faith. Let us be good neighbors, kind and generous and gracious. Let us be involved in good community causes. There may be situations, there will be situations, where, with serious moral issues involved, we cannot bend on matters of principle. But in such instances we can politely disagree without being disagreeable. We can acknowledge the sincerity of those whose positions we cannot accept. We can speak of principles rather than personalities.
Despite how hard it is to walk out of bad situations, it is so important to know when you need to go. I wish I’d walked out sooner. The next day, while my husband was at work, multiple people apologized for the content of the show and said that they’d noticed me leave. The performer himself apologized for offending. Other people said that they thought of us during the inappropriate performance and felt bad. Though I was embarrassed that so many people had noticed me leave and knew exactly why I had, I realized that they were just as worried about how I felt as I was worried about how they felt.
As a Mormon living in Indiana, I am certain that this won’t be the last time I will feel uncomfortable in a social situation. When something like this happens again, I will err on the side of leaving too early. I won’t sit on the front row! And most importantly, I will make a commitment to not just pay attention to the promptings of the Spirit, but to act on them immediately. Without casting judgment on people, I will actively choose what I want to participate in and what I don’t want to be exposed to. In the meantime I will build courage and faith and compassion so that next time, walking out will be a little easier.
Have you ever walked out of a bad situation? How did it feel? What advice do you have for those difficult situations?