I love movies. One of my favorites is Heatwith Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, and a host of other great actors. There is a scene in which Pacino and DeNiro are sitting in a diner, the cop and the robber (no really, that’s what their characters were), having a cup of coffee and talking about their lives. Pacino gives a great monologue in which he makes it clear that even though they’ve met, he will do what he has to in order to take DeNiro and his crew down… “no matter what.” At this point, DeNiro starts his rebuttal with a very simple phrase: “there’s a flip side to that coin.” He then continues with his own version of how things will play out. I love that phrase though: “there’s a flip side to that coin.” Quite often, there is another side to something.
This morning I had a “flip side to that coin” experience while discussing the conversation between Eve and the serpent detailed in Genesis 3. Regardless of your faith I would encourage you to examine this account. I saw this conversation from a myriad of new angles as we discussed it. Then someone around the table said something and my world stopped for a moment. (This was not original to him and it isn’t original to me, I just don’t know who to credit with this perspective.)
“Adam was given dominion over everything in the garden, including all the animals. He was given authority. He was there. He remained silent. He said nothing.”
Everything stopped for me in that moment. The more I think about it, the more applications I keep seeing. And the more questions I have. The problem with this is every time I ask a question, it comes right back on me.
- If Adam had dominion/authority/responsibility, why didn’t he speak up and stop the serpent? Why do I remain silent at times I should speak up/exercise my responsibility?
- What aspects of my marriage and the relationship I have with my wife am I being silent in?
- Are there places in my relationships with my children I need to be speaking into but I am choosing to remain silent?
- As it relates to my work, am I fully exercising my responsibility there and being present and involved?
I could keep going, but I think you see the path I am on. It also strikes me that this silence doesn’t even have to be in the big dramatic setting we might assume. There doesn’t have to be a big argument where someone is being humiliated and we don’t speak up to help defend them. When I think of this silence, I am picturing those smaller interactions that happen all the time around us.
Look closely at the dialogue between the serpent and Eve. There is nothing to indicate a big knock-down-drag-out fight. He asks her a question. He engages her. He then keeps her in conversation by feeding her with partial truths, constantly pulling her further and further from the truth…but doing it little, by little, by little. It has been said that the best lies contain the most truth. (That’s another whole conversation in and of itself.) This is exactly what the serpent does. He tells her partial truth after partial truth until she thinks she knows what is best. Until… crunch!
I have always thought that Eve got the bad rap in all this. After seeing this side of the coin I am convinced beyond any doubt that she has gotten the bad end of this story. Sure, like all of us, Eve is accountable for her actions and choices. But there are more questions here that need to be answered and considered. Why didn’t Adam come to her rescue? Why didn’t Adam put the serpent in line? Why did Adam join in at the end and take a bite? Why didn’t Adam engage Eve in conversation, like the serpent did, and talk about what was going on? If the serpent cared enough to talk to Eve, why didn’t Adam?
I am certainly not suggesting that we all run out the door and start telling everyone what to do and insert ourselves into every conversation and event we run into. I am saying this: I have remained silent for too long. I have been silent in my marriage. I have been silent with my children. I have been silent with my friends. I have been silent in my workplace.
There is a flip side. The flip side, for me, is that I need to engage. I need to not be silent. In the same way that I want my children to learn from my mistakes, I’m sure Adam would want us to learn from his. What if he had not remained silent? More current and to the point: What if I do not remain silent?