Bystander or Standing By?

Jackie Clark & Jim Still-Pepper

You have the choice: Be a passive bystander or choose to stand by the person who is bullied.

guardrail FTR TSP 487417975Imagine: You are driving across a bridge. Suddenly, you realize that part of the bridge is out. Your car stops just feet from the edge. Nothing warned you of the danger. You hear another car coming. You could step aside and watch what happens next, or you could try to get the driver’s attention and prevent an accident. What would you do?

Bullying is a hot topic. Generally, we talk about two people being involved: the bully and the victim. Usually, however, a third person is involved as well—the bystander, someone who witnesses an incident of bullying. The National Crime Prevention Council estimates that 85 percent of all bullying incidents are witnessed by a bystander. The good news is that bystanders can make a big difference.

Consider the four types of bystanders:

  • The passive bystander is aware of the bullying, but chooses to do nothing.
  • The cheerleader eggs on the bully and/or encourages the victim to fight back.
  • The aggressor bullies the bully.
  • The proactive bystander intervenes in safe ways.

Which type of bystander are you? Try this activity to explore how you might become more proactive:

victim balloonBlow up two balloons. Write on each balloon the word “victim.”

Take a needle and pop one of the balloons. Hold the popped balloon, the “victim,” in one hand; and write down thoughts and feelings that come to mind. Ask yourself, Of whom does this popped balloon remind me?

Pick up the second balloon. This time put your Bible between the balloon and the needle. Of course, the balloon does not pop. Put the needle down. Hold the unpopped balloon, the second “victim,” as you write down thoughts and feelings that come to mind. Then ask yourself, Of whom does this unpopped balloon remind me? How did the Bible protect the victim?

You could be like the Bible and stand by the victim. Here’s how to HELP:

H – ear. Pay attention to what is happening around you. Bullying is often a public event, so take notice.

E – ngage the victim and the bully. You don’t need to bully the bully or to put yourself in an unsafe situation. If you are afraid for your safety, then don’t confront the bully yourself. Get help from a trusted adult who has authority.

L – ead. If you are not afraid for your safety, lead the victim away from the bully by confidently asking him or her to come with you and to walk away from the bully. Be friendly with the victim, and don’t focus on the bully.

P – rocess the experience with the victim, and involve a trusted adult if necessary. Never underestimate the importance of emotionally standing by a victim by allowing the person to talk about his or her thoughts and feelings. You may be a safe haven.

The great news is that when friends help out, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57 percent of the time.



Spend some time praying for the two individuals you thought of in the balloon exercise. Ask God to help you know what to do the next time you encounter a bullying situation. Pray for the courage and the wisdom to help.

If you want to dig a little deeper, check out “The Bystander Effect,” a YouTube video that explains some of the reasons people choose to walk on by instead of stopping to help.

Jackie Clark & Jim Still-Pepper — Jackie is a mom, counselor, and volunteer youth worker in Zanesville, Ohio, who loves to help empower bystanders to action. Jim is a therapist and a motivational speaker working with youth and school districts to help empower bystanders to step up.

—from devozine (September/October 2014). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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