where a woman can build her strength and freedom

Why we must never be a bystander

The photo shows a young woman standing with her back to the ocean, covering her eyes with her hands like a bystander doing nothing.

We tend to think that the injustice, pain and suffering in our world
are caused by bad people who do bad things.
We think that the sadistic bullies are the problem.

Actually, it’s not so.
It is not the bullies that are the biggest danger.
The biggest danger is our passive surrender to them.

The bully can succeed only if the people around him do nothing.
A bystander is a passive observer.
A bystander sees acts of cruelty and injustice taking place
but does nothing.
By doing nothing, the bystander enables the bully to continue,
and allows him to escalate.

Are you willing to make a promise to yourself
to never be a bystander?

Let’s DO this!

Our gut knows

My intuition is exceedingly accurate.
I know when a situation is brewing where I am going to have to speak up.
I can feel it coming.
I get this sinking feeling in my gut.

“You have to deal with this, Deborah,” says my inner voice.
“Nobody else is going to. It’s up to you.”
I hate hearing that. I don’t want to do it. I dread it.
But I know I have to.


This happened to me yesterday. I’m still recovering.
My intuition told me I was going to have to stand up for my 98 year old friend
who wanted to go to our condominium business meeting.
I had a feeling he would no longer be made welcome there
(though he was sure he would be)
so I decided to accompany him.

He had signed over the ownership of his condo to his son,
and a literal reading of one of the by-laws (“only owners can attend meetings”)
would make him ineligible.
The intention of the by-law is simply to keep temporary renters
from being part of policy decisions.

This man is no temporary renter.
In fact, he was the creator, engineer and architect of the entire condominium complex
20 years ago, and has been living here ever since!
So, he is, in truth, the father of the whole place, and as such should be honored.

I just knew, however, that he wouldn’t be.
Turned out to be worse than I thought.
We were met at the door of the house by the person running the meeting.
He stood in the doorway and declared to us both:
I’m sorry, but you can’t come in.”

In spite of being somewhat prepared, this was a shocking experience for me.
One I had never had before.
In that moment I got a taste of how it must feel to be excluded for being a Jew or black.
My friend was dumbfounded, and angry.

Fortunately, I had rehearsed what I would say if we were challenged.
I looked the man straight in the eye and clearly put forward the rationale of my case.
I had already resolved that if they would not let my friend come to the meeting,
I would leave with him.
I had even told my friend: “If they expel you, I will tell them they will
also have to expel me—and do it bodily!”

While this was pure bravado, it did help me to set my resolve.
With potential mayhem in my eyes, the man at the door may have surmised as much,
for after a few minutes of discussion he relented, and let us in.

I thanked him, and did my best to dispel the tensions.
The meeting, and the party afterward, went very well and my friend had a great time.

I had trouble sleeping last night as I had found it so painful to rise to that challenge.
Couldn’t wind down and stop thinking about it, even this morning.
But it was worth it.

My friend thanked me deeply, and my conscience was clear:
I had not abandoned him.

Standing up

Yes, there are many times in life when we must stand up—
for other people, and for ourselves.
It is never easy.
But our freedom depends on it.

As Dylan wrote in Blowing In The Wind:
“Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see?”

Have a listen to the whole song:

Are you willing to stand up and intervene
when you see someone being badly treated?
When you hear someone being badly spoken of?

You can become the person we all hope will be there for us:
The person who will never abandon us.
The person who is incapable of silence
in the face of suffering.


Was there a time when you needed someone to stand up for you,
but no one did?

I hope you will write and tell me about it.

I’m with you.

Dr. Hall