5 Reasons Being on the Fence is Hard

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Have you ever been accused of being on the fence on a tough issue? People don’t realize how many of us there are because we’re not the ones making headlines. They also don’t realize being on the fence isn’t easy. Here are five reasons why being on the fence is harder than people think.

1. People Think We’re Just Sitting Here, Not Caring

The people on the extremes of an issue advocate legislation, push the envelope, and get noticed. Since we’re not in the public square making our position clear, they think we’re just sitting here on our fence, not caring about the issue at hand.

They imagine us here, blissfully unaware of the heated debate all around us. They think, because we haven’t chosen one side or the other, we simply don’t care. While that may be true for inconsequential matters, we do care about the big stuff. Its just that the way we care doesn’t look like the way an activist cares.

2. People Don’t Understand the Fence as a Position

People assume just because we haven’t chosen “either/or” we don’t have an opinion. They say we’re undecided. They don’t seem to appreciate that we chose the fence for a reason.

What they don’t realize is that we’re as passionate about the issue as they are. Our decision to take middle ground is often just as intentional as their choice to take a side. We’re not undecided, we have simply chosen a highly nuanced position somewhere in the middle.

3. Sometimes We Agree with Both Sides

Our nuance often comes from the reality that we can see merit on both sides of the issue. We think both camps have valid points and we take a position that embraces the best of both.

It’s hard to talk about the issue with people who want us to pick a side when we agree with them and their opponents. When we nod in agreement on their concerns and also nod with their opposition, they think we’re being disloyal.

4. Other Times We Disagree with Both Sides

On some issues our nuance comes from the conviction that both extremes are just wrong. We hear all the arguments on both sides and neither one seems a suitable option. We don’t pick one or the other because there just isn’t a good choice between them.

We take our perch on the fence because we find balance there, avoiding the muck on both sides. The trouble then is, we’re easy targets on that fence because we’re everyone’s opposition.

5. Some Fences Just Plain Hurt

Oh sure, some fences are sturdy and comfortable, but other fences are rickety or barbed. Being on the fence can be pleasant, but sometimes being on the fence itself is dangerous.

When the moderate position has its own dangers and difficulties, it can be tempting to just choose a side. Sometimes being on the fence hurts like barbed wire but we do it because we’re convinced that’s where we’re supposed to be.

What the Fence Could Be

Maybe if more people understood why being on the fence is so hard, they’d give us a break. Maybe if we could somehow articulate why we take the middle ground, they’d see that we care. And maybe if we could better communicate our nuanced view they might even help us bend back some barbs and join us on the fence.

Do you wish more people would take a nuanced view of controversial topics? Or are you on the fence about that?

7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Andrea on April 21, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    Well said!

  2. Posted by Sharol Herr on April 22, 2013 at 5:42 am

    Just like my faith, sitting on the fence is not easy but it is worth it. It gives me the opportunity to see the world and issues and people with compassion love and care. I have a couple of barbwire scars to prove it–mainly in places others will never see!

  3. […] wrote before about how I am on the fence about a lot of things. And it was sort-of a “woe is me” for being so misunderstood for seemingly not being […]

  4. I like it! Thanks for this, Jennifer.

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