What's a bystander? Well, by definition a bystander is someone "who is present, but not taking part in a situation or event."
What's an upstander? Well, by definition an upstander is "one of the handlebars of an Eskimo sledge."
That was not the definition I was looking for.
Nope. Ugh ... let's try this again, and this time let's resort to the Urban Dictionary, OK?
What's an upstander? Well, according to Urban Dictionary, an upstander is "a person who stands up for his or her beliefs," who does what they think is right. They are the opposite of a bystander.
The world right now is full of bystanders, and there is no doubt that on at least one occasion, each and every one of us has been a cowardly bystander.
Most of us can watch an episode of "What Would You Do?" and yell at our television screens, cursing the unsuspecting individual who failed to act. But, when we ourselves are confronted with controversial or inappropriate situations that are right in front of our faces, we choose to turn away and ignore them, or worse we choose to keep watching and stay silent.
Listen, I get it and it has happened to me too. Observing a wrong choice makes me feel super uneasy, and public disputes make my stomach turn. I am embarrassed to say that I can recall quite a few occasions where I walked away from a negative incident to which I was not a party, but clearly should have stepped up and spoke up.
So, why didn't I? I'll share with you.
Ninety percent of the times that I didn't speak up were because of one of the following reasons:
My young children were with me.
I was fearful of physical retaliation.
I was in a rush and did not have time.
I felt as though I didn't know enough to speak up.
While these are completely genuine reasons for remaining a bystander, the fact is that they are excuses - and I realize that now. I have come to understand that 99.9 percent of the time, I should speak up and it is because of one of the following reasons:
1. My young children were with me
This is a reason to stand up for my beliefs, defend another's when they align with mine, or at minimum stand up for the notion that respect must be given and had amongst ALL individuals regardless of their beliefs. There is no better time to teach your children about right and wrong, about bullying and befriending, about meaningful conversation and surface-level banter, and about how all people in this world should be behaving toward one another - with kindness and respect.
2. I was fearful of physical retaliation
Never back down from a fight and never, ever feel intimidated by anyone. No one is better than you, smarter than you or stronger than you. You are as good, smart and strong as you need to be, and that should enable you to have the self-assurance to always do what you think is right, even if it goes against the norm or the bully.
3. I was in a rush and did not have time
How lame? There is always time to be a good person. There is always time to do the right thing.
4. I felt as though I didn't know enough to speak up
You don't need to have a stellar IQ or be up to date on CNN's latest news cycle to be able to distinguish between a positive and productive conversation, and one that is going nowhere fast. You know that active listening is a key ingredient in a successful dialogue, and you don't have to know anything to be able to listen. You just need to be present and willing to converse.
Standing on the sideline is not my style - not in parenting, not in my marriage, surely not when it comes to my children's health and education, and definitely not on my blog ... so, why in the world am I choosing not to participate in life's spontaneous discords?
I'm not anymore. I am going to be an active upstander and raise my children to be the same.
How about you?
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Nicole Merritt's website. It has been republished here with permission.