What the United Airlines Debacle Has to Teach Us About the Importance of Context

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We live in a world of instant and instant means that context gets kicked to the curb because exploring context takes time and that means instant is impossible to achieve.

Take what happened the other day on the United Airlines flight. The first thing we saw were the videos. They came from multiple angles and lasted 20 or 30 seconds at best. What we saw in the video was truly disturbing. It was brutal. We see that and think to ourselves, “no one should ever be treated that way.” But still no context. We rush to judgment as if we have the whole story when the reality is we don’t. That doesn’t mean mistreatment is justified and condemnation is unwarranted. What it does mean is that we have to slow down to get the rest of the story to sort things out a bit first.

Seeking context and clarity doesn’t justify mistreatment of others. Context does give us a more accurate understanding of events. When you talk to someone who is having relationship troubles or problems with a given congregation you have to do two things: first you have to acknowledge the hurt (it is real). Second you have to step back and realize there is always more to the story. The identified patient is not always the real person who needs treatment and the person labeled the victim has often been complicit in what was perpetrated.

Gathering context is not about discrediting anyone. Gathering context is about understanding. The news media has trained us to rush to make judgments about people and events based on 10 second video clips. It just doesn’t work on any consistent level and no one wants to be on the other end of a rush to judgment and yet we do it to others all the time.

Always seek context.

Ask questions.

Find out the rest of the story.

When you do you might find out that the victim is not as much a victim as you at first thought but that they had some complicity in the events that unfolded. Or you may find out that things were exactly as you first assumed. At least you know and can feel justified in the opinions and views you have formed after doing some due diligence.

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