One of the most important persons in a bullying situation is the bystander. Whereas the bully can control her/his actions, and the victim could take some action to advocate for her/himself, it is the bystander who can put a stop to the abusive behavior.
Bystanders can deflect the attention to something else, injecting humor, distraction or even just moving on to another topic. They could distance the interaction by helping the victim to move away from the conflict. Finally, they could defend the victim by calling out the misbehavior and aligning themselves with the person being bullied.
Bystanders can create significant change if they stand up.
All of us can create significant change in any situation, if we just stand up.
As Catholics, our Church calls us to a preferential option for the poor, vulnerable and marginalized. Christ calls us to give voice to the voiceless, hands and feet to the powerless, and sustenance to the disadvantaged.
Jesus calls us to stand up.
Our world needs our action. Our country needs our action. Our neighbors need our action. Our brothers and sisters need our action.
All of us must be willing to set aside our status to do what is right. All of us must be willing to deflect, delay, and defend as necessary. We must be willing to stand up to the bullies of politics, power, racism, classism, sexism, and countless other injustices plaguing our world.
As we stand up, we must take comfort in and be emboldened by the fact that while we cannot, as individuals, correct all of the evils we face. But, we can do something. All of us can, in our own way, stand up for something. We can all stand up for someone.
Martin Luther King, Jr. framed standing up in many and various ways. The following are words delivered by Dr. King at the 11th Convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1967:
Now, we got to get this thing right. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. (Yes) Power at its best [applause], power at its best is love (Yes) implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love. (Speak) And this is what we must see as we move on. (http://www-personal.umich.edu/~gmarkus/MLK_WhereDoWeGo.pdf)
Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love. And against everything that stands against love we must be willing to stand up.
This is what we must see as we move on.
*The following is a "found poem" inspired by an address by Senator Corey Booker in the summer of 2003 and the text from the novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance by Steven Pressfield (1995):
Life is action
We cannot do otherwise than act
We cannot do otherwise than act
Even in choosing not to act we do.
Therefore, act with vigor.
Act without attachment.
Hold nothing back.
Strike and act without fear or forethought.
Do honor to yourself and to your station.
Stand up and allow the destiny you once chose to choose you.
Chip away all that is inauthentic.
Allow its purity to emerge.
Let it reek of life- something wild and pure.
Fly with winged sandals on your feet and enter the spirit.
Take your place amidst something ancient and noble
Where great armies once clashed in battle
Blows thundering heavenward with ringing steel
Horses and men crying out in victory and defeat.
Stand and let all that you are shine in His magnificence
Let yourself burst forth from this stone
Let it come from that place deep inside yourself
That place that was there before you ever were
and will remain once you are no more.
He was with you on that ancient battlefield and He is with you now.
You are never alone.
No sin, no lapse, no crime can make Him desert you.
He will never abandon you.
For you never were then, nor will you be now, alone.
He is always with you.
Even when it seems as though you are drowning, in that hour remember Him.
He will preserve you.
Therefore, stand up!