Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
Q: I have this friend, “Jon,” whom I am very close to and have been since I was 7 years old. The problem with Jon is that he doesn’t seem to be able to stand up to anyone or speak his mind. It’s like no matter what someone says, Jon agrees with it – whether he believes it or not. I know what Jon thinks, being a close friend, but I lose respect for him when he doesn’t stand up and speak his mind to others, especially when it comes to prejudice.
People can say some of the most outrageous things, things that Jon doesn’t agree with, and Jon will just smile and shake his head as though he does agree. For instance, Jon and I were talking with some guys – all straight, as is Jon – and one of the guys started making jokes against gays. All the guys in the group were Jon’s frat brothers and he lives with them. (I didn’t know them as I go to another college. I was just visiting for the weekend.) All the guys were laughing. Jon didn’t laugh, but he had a smile on his face, though I have to say that it was more of a sick smile. I decided to walk away from the group, and Jon followed me, not having said anything to anyone other than that we needed to go somewhere, like it was a time issue, not a hate-talk issue.
At other times, I’ve seen Jon do this when it has come to racial jokes, too. I know that Jon isn’t that kind of a guy; he never says those kinds of things himself, but he makes no effort to let others know that he doesn’t believe that way. It’s not just prejudice or hateful talk.
Jon is very liberal, but if someone conservative says something that is really out of whack with his beliefs, he just nods and goes along with it. He never shows that he disagrees or puts forth his beliefs.
You might wonder why I would even like a guy like this, but he does have some really good qualities, like he’s really friendly and kind to people, works with and gives to animal organizations, and has been a very loyal friend.
I didn’t say anything to Jon about those guys making fun of gays and his not saying anything, but it really hurt. He didn’t say anything to me about it either. That hurt, too.
Do you have any ideas why Jon is like this? I just can’t figure it out. Maybe it would help me feel better if I understood him.
A: What kind of “loyal friend” is he? I guess I don’t see his behavior as loyal. But you asked why Jon is like that. I certainly have some guesses why he might behave like that, such as: he’s afraid that he’ll offend others and not be liked or accepted by them if he doesn’t agree with them; and/or he hates conflict and will do anything to avoid it; or maybe he just has a wet noodle for a spine. But, since I don’t know Jon, I am just guessing at some of the causes that might explain his behavior.
Having said that about Jon, I think that you need to take some responsibility in this by speaking up yourself; that is, speaking up to Jon by letting him know how it felt to you when he didn’t speak up when the guys were making gay jokes. He needs to hear that from you, and how that felt to you when he didn’t speak up. He also needs to know how, by him not speaking up, he becomes part of the problem of prejudice, and not part of the cure. Telling him all this may not be enough to give him the courage to change his behavior, but you will have done your part in helping him to understand. And you will feel better that you have expressed your pain.