When I saw that today’s daily prompt challenge focused on the word “controversy,” I was compelled to write, but I did not immediately know why. As I contemplated the word, I began to think that it was and is much more than what meets the eye. Controversy is the painstaking element that forces us to grow.
Controversy drives decisions, pits people and ideas against one another, and demands that we support what we do and say. But the most humbling and challenging part of any controversy is not its most obvious roles that allow us to explore and expand our own beliefs, wants, and needs. Rather, controversy becomes most sobering, real, and authentic when we find ourselves completely and utterly in the wrong. Then what will we do? How will we respond when we have, regardless of intentions, defended our positions and ideas with vigor and fervor only to learn of a new perspective? How might we display the characteristics of humility and understanding when we have been forced to re-examine our conclusions in light of what others have offered and brought to the discussion?
Controversy so often exists when there is no obvious correct or “right’ answer. For example, what does one do when it is right to defend multiple sides of the same conflict? What does one do when they witness the proverbial Jean Valjean steal a loaf of bread? Is it right to both expose a man or woman that has broken a common and agreed upon law or ordinance, or is it right to show compassion and mercy and attempt to understand what circumstances drove such action?
According to The Institute for Global Ethics’ former CEO and author of How Good People Make Tough Decisions, Rushworth M. Kidder defines these dilemmas and controversies as “right versus right.” In his ethics-based novel, Kidder notes, “Tough choices, typically, are those that pit one ‘right’ value against another. That’s true in every walk of life—corporate, professional, personal, civic, international, educational, religious, and the rest” (4). It then makes sense to seek both mercy and justice–to provide what is fair for all parties. Yet we know that this is not entirely possible in most cases, and that is what makes controversy both appealing and troublesome.
Controversy will not often yield results perceived as fair or just for all parties. Controversy will not often lend itself to easy or simple discussions. Controversy will not often appear in defined manners that allow for its subjects to emerge unscathed or unharmed, but it will provide a platform worth standing upon in the first place. It will provide the necessary ingredients for us, as human beings, to challenge one another and grow throughout the process. Controversy will always leave us battered and exhausted, but it is by that peril that it will also leave us better than it found us–should we allow.