Stumbling Blocks

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Many years ago, I was out on a first date with a guy. There's a lot that went wrong with this date, but there's one part in particular that I want to mention here:

We met at a restaurant/bar, and he proceeded to buy a lot of drinks for someone else in the bar. He confided in me that this person had a problem with alcohol, and it was really funny when this person got very drunk.

It bothered me that he was playing on this person's weakness for his own entertainment.

This was over 25 years ago, so I don't remember whether I said or did anything. I seem to remember saying it wasn't a nice thing to do, but maybe I'm only wishing I did that.

I still don't think it's a good idea to tempt people to do something wrong or harmful. Whether it's tempting people with alcohol or drugs, or baiting them to anger or violence, doing so makes the tempter guilty as well.

The same goes for baiting people into protests, or trolling them on the internet. Sure, it seems like fun, and maybe we think it shows this other person's true colors. But if this were really the way the person would act, why would we have to bait or tempt them? Wouldn't they do what we expect anyway?

I see this too often with our law enforcement: we offer a person a chance to do something wrong and, once he's committed, we give him  a chance to get out. But by that time, the person is already too committed to back down. The trouble is, this person would not have done this on his own.

And we do it in other spaces, too. We do things, say things, or publish things we hope will get a response, because the protesters will get us in the news and we'll look like sympathetic victims. But who is the real victim here? If we taunted someone expecting a response, we can hardly claim to be victims of the very response we tried to elicit. We wanted that response.

This is not about blaming the victim. If I do something - say, walk hand-in-hand with my spouse - I should not expect abuse. But if I do something - say, publish something that infuriates someone known for protesting - and the reason I do it is so that the person will come and protest, how can I claim innocence? I cannot claim to be the victim of the outcome I desired.

God, help me to recognize my motivations for my choices. Help me to not put a stumbling block in front of others.

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