Silence is a Message, Too
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“Should I step in? Yes, but it’s not really any of my business.”
These words echo the thoughts of a witness to bullying. He or she is presented with a critical decision.
No message sends a message to both the bully and the victim. To the victim, a bystander indirectly says that he or she does not care. This victim is clearly intimidated and may not be able to stand up for himself or herself. If this victim lacks courage and a voice, they will be even more hurt by the bully’s actions. To the bully, a bystander’s refusal to act shouts that his or her behavior is acceptable. An unchallenged bully is dangerous; the bully will continue to harass and harm others in the future because no one had the courage to tell them, “no.” A vicious cycle is perpetuated.
By ignoring bullying, I am hurting the victim, the bully, and even myself. I am allowing an innocent victim to be harmed either physically, psychologically, or emotionally by someone who has power over them. My refusal to help makes them feel even more isolated and targeted. My silence encourages the bully to continue his or her behavior. The bully might continue to target this specific victim or others. I am promoting the cycle, and this bully needs help. He or she is clearly insecure or troubled and takes it out on others.
It is worse to be a bystander than an oppressor. Oppressors are clearly insecure, jealous, or problematic. We only see the surface, which is the personality and actions they allow others to see. There are most likely turbulent thoughts and emotions underneath the surface. Perhaps they bully others because they have been abused by people in their life and are unsure of how to cope. While these factors certainly do not excuse bullying, they can explain a person’s venomous behavior. However, the silence of bystanders cannot even partially be forgiven by these factors. A bystander is presented with a choice. A bystander knows the right thing to do. What’s stopping them? He or she has a duty to stand up and speak out.