Responses, Opinions, and Our Character

Another tragedy has hit our beloved Philippines. One of us, a young lady, has taken her own life, and the reason that has been reported is that she could not afford to pay her tuition and had to take a leave of absence.

Now before I continue, I will admit up front that I am not completely informed on this event, and all I know comes from links and reports. I say this because I want to make it clear that I am not writing about my “analysis” of the circumstances of this tragic death.

I am writing about our responses.

How one responds to tragedy, to pain, to criticism, to correction, to offence, to discomfort, to lack, to persecution, to threats, reveals more about the responder than it does about the circumstances. Circumstances are what they are, how we face these circumstances, how we act and respond is what will decide whether we move forward or backward.

Now the mind of the mob is always “someone needs to pay”. So we must identify that “someone”, and, by making him pay, the problem is solved.

Or does it?

History will tell us having a scapegoat never solved anything. Logic will tell us the same thing. If someone ate your cookie and you punched him in the face, it doesn’t give you your cookie back. Yes, it may prevent a future theft, but it doesn’t bring what you originally lost back to you, and you sever the chance of building anything meaningful with the person you punched.

You’ll say, “He severed it.” Just like a 6 year old saying, “He started it.”

And that is why our society is the way it is. We have placed our personal entitlements, real and imagined, over others. We, who want the benefits and freedom of adults, process circumstances like 6 year olds.

Yes, there is a place for punishment – but that is for the proven guilty. And punishment alone doesn’t make life better. You cannot weed a garden without planting and watering flowers and trees and expect something beautiful. What you’ll have is a desert. With the removing we must be including.

What I am about to share next is my personal opinion, an opinion that is under-informed on this topic so take it with a grain of salt.

Also, don’t put much weight on the words of those not willing to scrutinize their own soul nor act on proclaimed convictions. So until you have ascertained that I do consciously reflect, that I apply high standards to my own life, and act on my convictions, don’t believe everything I write.

This applies to all the different opinions and messages thrown at us every day. The source of the opinion matters. There are wrong opinions and right opinions, and it is important that people learn how to discern between both. Don’t be so quick to take something as truth because its initial taste was pleasing to your sensibilities.

Listen to the critic who studies his own motives, to the citizen who is a neighbour with principle, to the radical who serves others. The opinions of those who will not pay the cost of seeing their convictions made real are shallow – no matter how loud they are.

Anyway, here is my opinion.

We should wait before blaming UP or the officers for this suicide. It is inaccurate and reductionalist to crucify without the full story. Society is always looking to crucify a “criminal” for a “system” we ourselves perpetuate with our own apathy and pride.

When someone else is guilty that means we’re not guilty right?


Just because someone is guilty, doesn’t mean we don’t bear any responsibility.

If there is anything true about the story of The Good Samaritan it is this: we are all always responsible. I wrote more about my thoughts on responsibility in the article Whose Fault Is It?

When a tragedy hits, must we bicker amongst ourselves on who should be sacrificed to atone for our collective responsibility?

I believe there is a better response, and I’ll try to be as practical as possible. Instead of spewing all sorts of opinions and blame, use suffering to build character by coming together and persevering together in the direction of our collective dream.

In short, instead of collectively finding someone to blame. Let us collectively take on the responsibility of showing love, of giving comfort, of repairing brokenness, of educating others, of preventing future incidents.

Now, given how fragmented our country is, it is currently unrealistic to expect some national coming together, so in your own circles, particularly your own families, come together and ask this question:

How should we respond?

Parents, group your families, discuss and pray. Take this is a call to get to know your kids, to show more concern for understanding them, to learn to listen. Pray as a family for those affected and that God will show you how to live in harmony.

Children, honor your parents, listen to them. Ask them about the challenges they have faced and how they overcame. Fill your soul with stories of those who faced severe adversity yet did not give up. Care for your siblings, spend more time with them. If you’re older show a good example. If you’re younger show respect.

Teachers, it’s time to go back to true education. To educate someone means to bring out the best in them. It is not merely a downloading of information so that someone will pass a test. It is a deliberate effort to identify the best traits of a person and use your expertise to cultivate these traits.

Politicians, obviously should lead, but you’re not just a politician. You’re a public SERVANT. If you succeed in the popularity contest but didn’t succeed as a servant – you’re a failure – and you who have been given much will be judged with a higher requirement.

Churches, it’s time to promote true Christianity, which is Christlikeness that loves and lays life down because we overflow with the life He has given us and the love He fills us with. It is not a sanitised theology that believes God is here to make my life problem-free and as comfortable and respectable as possible.

We can go on with examples but the point is, whoever we are, wherever we are, whatever group we belong to, the ability to respond and make a positive difference in the lives of others is within us, and the first step is admit, “I AM RESPONSIBLE. I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING.”

Then follow this up with deliberate prayer and reflection asking God, “Father, show me how You want me serve.” I use the word deliberate to indicate discipline and action, NOT a mindless habit.

Then go out and lay your life down.

Now imagine what that would look like: lives laid down to form a bridge instead of a mob erected into a wall.

Again, I want to be clear that these are humble opinions, and are in no way comprehensive solutions to our society’s ills. I do hope that this drop will ripple in your minds, because I do believe some of you, if not many of you, will be blessed with creative ways to make our country more beautiful for our beautiful people, and all that’s needed is for you to respond.

David Bonifacio

David Bonifacio Husband, Father, CEO of Bridge. #DB

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Anonymous - March 20, 2013 Reply

What students in UP Manila (including myself) feel about the incident:

    David Bonifacio - March 21, 2013 Reply

    I definitely agree with the heart of this post – especially the part of taking responsibility.

    The question now is, “What should be done?” Is removing the policy the way? Most policies are in place to protect those who abide by the policies. Schools need to generate revenue, not necessarily for profit motives, but for operational ones.

    This simple point is true: everything we enjoy has a cost. Even the air we breathe is produced by something and is finite, so the plants that produce need to keep producing it. It’s free to us because something else does the providing.

    If we are enjoying something for free that only means someone else is paying the price for it.

    So no policy or removal of a policy should ever be considered without considering the cost of ALL affected. It is very common for us to isolate cases, make judgements, make changes, and find that the changes made things worse.

    Universities that have healthy revenue models actually give more scholarships and grants than those who don’t. More importantly, they give outstanding education not just a degree.

    Maybe institutions should make it their goal to increase the scholar ratio. Maybe they partner with companies to sponsor the education of students. Maybe we should have more student job programs. The point is, we do need to address the education issue, but simply saying “free for all” or even “free if you can’t afford” won’t work because someone still has to pay.

    We say we should have schools like in Canada or Europe where things are a high level and free, but they can afford that because their citizens pay much higher taxes, the collection of their taxes are upright and transparent, and the citizens themselves work incredibly hard – incredibly hard. I thought I worked hard until I partnered with a Swiss man. The people pay their government a lot, so their government has a lot to allocate to things such as schools.

    So the change we want requires a change in leadership – particularly at the local level who can make a more direct impact on constituents within their city.

    Having said that, if we think that education can only happen in schools and should only happen in schools, we are wrong. The best educational experiences I had were not in school. I wish it did. But they came from facing life’s challenges, persevering, losing, trying again, overcoming, learning, realizing, praying, studying even outside books, asking others to help me, and so on.

    The point is my education is ultimately my responsibility. I’m the ultimate beneficiary of the education, I should pay its cost.

    Second point, every right we claim to be entitled to for free, education, health, safety, etc, is enjoyed because someone paid. And if you’re not paying for it, someone else is.

Anonymous - March 22, 2013 Reply

“You cannot weed a garden without planting and watering flowers and trees and expect something beautiful. What you’ll have is a desert. With the removing we must be including.” – I couldn’t agree more! Just as we’re supposed to replace faulty systems with upgraded, working versions; old addictions with good habits and wrong mindsets with the right ones, our deliberate effort to respond in love and compassion (all by God’s grace)is essential.

Karen - September 21, 2013 Reply

Hi, David. Thank you for writing this. I hope more and more people will be able to read your posts 🙂

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