Moderation is a lovely thought, isn’t it? Or is it?

In its best sense, it is an invitation to resist being captured by extremism, fanaticism, certainty—a sureness that regards any challenge as evil.

I remember an older professor who said she challenged her students to preface their remarks on very controversial subjects with the words “in my opinion.” These three words acknowledge the presence of other views in a respectful way. They are an invitation to moderation.

This said, we acknowledge that exceptional moments arise that call for stark responses—such as moments of immediate danger or injustices that threaten the very core of our humanity. Moderation does not suggest weakness, blandness, cowardice, or fearfulness in the face of such moments.

Moderation suggests thoughtfulness, strength, and wisdom for the moment. It acknowledges the differences that exist among our neighbors and the peoples of the earth. And it does not make normal any judgmental, hateful, spiteful words or selfish behaviors.

I recently read a beautiful story told by an elder in the Mi’ Kmag indigenous community, Danny Paul, which said we are kind of like trees. On the surface, every tree looks like it stands alone. But beneath the surface, all the trees in a forest are intertwined.

The greatest human beings among us sense this deep connection, and they treat others with something like what we call, even sometimes awkwardly, love.

Each of us has the chance to be such a person. It’s worth the gamble. In my opinion.