It’s pretty easy to condemn Nazis. Forced labor camps. Killing camps. Final solution. Ugly, repulsive, condemnable. If you’re like me and most people, you say to yourself, “I would NEVER participate in such condemnable behavior.” I believe you.

Here’s something that makes thinking about all of this a little more complicated, though.

Most Germans were NOT members of the Nazi party. Only 7% of the German population was in the Nazi party at its peak. That means, at most, 7% of the population was “directly” involved in 12 years of despicable behavior that culminated in the Holocaust. Cool! That means 93% of the German population was NOT guilty of what I learned to call “sins of commission” in religion classes. Yeah!

But wait … …how did a minority of only 7% get away with millions of atrocities? A super short answer: “sins of omission.” A sin of omission is NOT doing something that we can do, that we ought to do, and that results in damage when we fail to do it.

To bring this back to us, you and me here today, what is it in our day-in and day-out lives that we hold ourselves accountable for, especially in the area of relationships?

“At least I didn’t yell at you in public and humiliate you.” [Therefore, I am not guilty of a sin of commission. BOOM!]

“You also didn’t call, didn’t say that plans had changed, didn’t own it that you are breaking a promise.” [Therefore, you are guilty of a sin of omission. BOOM!)

The yeller gets judged and condemned for being loud, saying harsh and socially inappropriate things. Who’s doing the condemning? The “nice” one, who hasn’t yelled but who also failed to communicate, failed to call, failed to indicate plans had changed, failed to take responsibility for broken promises. It’s not pretty when someone is yelling at another; but broken promises aren’t that pretty either.

It’s clear to me that people have a preference for one kind of breach over the other. It’s also clear to me that the “committers” usually get the bulk of the blame for bad stuff, mostly because it’s so easy to see their bad behavior.

But the “omitters” are not an impressive group. Hiding behind the “I didn’t do the bad thing! Here! See?! Watch them doing the bad thing on tape!” It’s bad; I always agree. But I also always wonder about the stuff no one videotaped: the broken promises creating the context for the bad behavior.

Each one of us probably has a personal inclination to commit or omit. But one’s preferred style doesn’t relieve us of the responsibility for damages. In my world, not communicating is just as bad as yelling.

What about in your world?