Crisis strikes. We clamor and fight to react in such a way to show our support and solidarity, to help, to do something. Our intentions are good but sometimes we do things that are reactive but not an active part of the solution.

I’ve noticed this tendency in myself and others as we’ve grappled with how to respond to the BP oil spill crisis. The destruction in the Gulf is gut-wrenching. The images of the piles of dead, oil-saturated wildlife have invoked tears. I’ve had many impassioned conversations with friends regarding what could be done to show our outrage and decided to boycott BP to demonstrate said outrage. That’d show them! I felt better about my protest for about a day until perspective came by way of a conversation, a tweet and the recollection of a few basic economic principles. What would happen exactly if other purchasers of BP decided to react in protest as I had? Well, BP would likely approach bankruptcy very quickly meaning the responsibility for the cleanup would fall squarely on the shoulders of the government and communities of the Gulf, hundreds of thousands of former BP employees would be without jobs, franchises would have to close their doors, and the efforts of myself and hundreds of others would have been made in vain.

I realized that crisis had caused me to react instead of act. In my anger I’d failed to pause and determine whether my response would actually help and not hinder. All of this makes me wonder, what would happen if I chose instead to respond in such a way that heeds a larger perspective instead of my emotions? What if the better response is sometimes one that seems to contradict our pervading emotions? I’m not an economist by any stretch, but I have to wonder what would happen if we all decided to purchase our gasoline from BP instead of another provider for the next several months? Would it ensure that their company is healthy and in a position to better focus on cleanup efforts and restoration? I don’t know. But I do know that the next time I’m faced with crisis or disaster I hope I’ll stop and think before (re)acting.

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