Shades of Gray and Doing the Right Thing

“The Twelve Angry Men” who come together in the play by Regional Rose has always fascinated me in its exploration of right and wrong and how we as humans quite often reach completely different conclusions regarding both of these and the gray that lies somewhere in between.

His famous story binds twelve jurors, a dozen very different men, who must determine the fate of a man accused of capital murder.  As the play unfolds, we witness the unveiling of the experiences, prejudices, personal histories and biases of each of these men and watch as they develop their own determinations and then argue them to the group in an effort to determine the fate of the defendant.  The battle heats up at times and once, or twice, the jurors almost come to physical blows as they witness their own stories in alignment with the case.  In the end, what is the truth? And who really has it?

One day a dear and trusted friend and I discussed the issue of black and white and the gray that lies between.  He brought up this scenario.  “Crissy, consider this.  You are a non-Jew living in Germany just before World World II.  Even though you are not a Jew, you have close Jewish friends and are petrified about the horrible travesty rising against your friends.  So one day, you decide to  hide a beloved family  to keep them safe from harm.  Against the law, you harbor them in your basement.  Then one day, the Gestapo pounds on the door and demands to know if you have Jews in your home.

“Without a thought of the fact that you were reared to always tell the truth and to never lie, you outright and boldly lie.  With a perfectly sincere and straight face, you lie,”‘No. I am not harboring Jews in my house.”

I nodded and considered the scenario while my friend asked, “Did you do the right thing?  You lied.   You did not tell the truth.

“But,” I said, “I saved the lives of my friends.”


In many cases of difficulties between human beings, we do not find black and white but a whole lot of gray.  I am not talking about brutal murder, incest, rape or abject cruelty.  I am talking, however, about all manner of human relations, sometimes that which even ostensibly involves love.

During this Year of Altruism in Greenville, we are discussing some hard issues – including gay and lesbian marriage – race relations – acceptance of all religions and so much more.  If you live here, I encourage you to review the schedule on the site of Year of Altruism in Greenville.  Get into the dialogue.  Our future depends on it.

The Dalai Lama once said, “Whatever we say, let us speak clearly and to the point, in a voice that is calm and pleasant, unaffected by attachment or hatred…If we are able to transform adverse situations into factors of the spiritual path, hindrances will become favorable conditions for spiritual practice.”

Discernment is almost never as easy as it might appear to be.  Think carefully.

One thought on “Shades of Gray and Doing the Right Thing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s