Ahhh, the Witness, also well-known to me as “The Innocent Bystander.” Now many of you and your children will fall into this category and normally the initial reaction is, “I did nothing wrong. I did not bully and I was not bullied.” My response is, “True. You did nothing wrong, but you know what, you did nothing right, either.”
The majority, if not all, of the witnesses to bullying know who the bullies are and also know who is being bullied. The sad part of their story is that they know what is going on yet fail to do anything. Why? Again, our greatest need is our need for connection while our greatest fear is rejection. Witnesses don’t stand up for fear of being bullied themselves and by being the “innocent bystander,” you can still have some type of connection to bullies and also those who are being bullied.
Trust me, I know. I was the poster child for “The Witness.” I am hopeful that you understand how sarcastic I am being when I refer to “The Witness,” as “The Innocent Bystander.” Witnesses are far from being innocent and are certainly low in the self-esteem column as well. Once again, if you are in a good place with yourself, have a healthy and strong self-esteem, not only do you not have a need to bully anyone, but you also can’t tolerate other people being bullied. Witnesses are living in a place of fear and the fear can consume you so much to the point where you don’t do anything or you can harness and leverage that fear and stand up for someone.
For all my fellow witnesses out there, I want you to recall the number of times you saw some type of bullying go on and simply watched the movie play out without doing a thing. How did it feel then and how does it feel now?
I know for myself that if I could change anything about my 40-year life it would be to not be that “Witness” throughout my elementary, middle school, and even high school years. Day in and day out I would watch friends, maybe not my best friends, but nonetheless friends and peers go home with either black and blue marks on their arms or parts of their body or go home mentally scarred based on all the verbal abuse they took on a daily basis. Even today, it makes my stomach sick to even think of my sitting back and doing nothing. Maybe that is one of the reasons why I talk and write about it. It is healing for me.
Ask yourself how abuse you watched when you were a kid and how much you and your child may be watching at this very moment. Make the choice to say “enough is enough,” and have your own personal “zero-tolerance” policy.
Final Chapter: The Leader
Scott Chesney is a motivational speaker and life coach, Verona resident, husband, and parent of two children. You can reach him at [email protected]. Read all five parts of his special column on bullying here.