You know that feeling when you witness someone doing or saying something that you know is wrong? It might be something as trivial as an incorrect statement of the facts or it could be an action that has the potential to cause others harm. Your heart starts beating rapidly, threatening to thump right out of your chest, and you know that the only way to quiet it is to speak up.
We all have this gut reaction when we’re faced with injustice. We know that something should be said or done but it’s hard to build up the courage to be the one to act. It’s not easy, but it’s what’s right, and this is a huge way that you can make a difference.
What’s holding you back?
What’s keeping you from speaking out in these situations? Are you afraid you won’t be supported? That others will think less of you for going against the grain or for pointing out the fault in another person’s judgment? These are valid reasons for holding back but you must overcome them. We can’t worry about what others think of us when we’re pressed to do the right thing—we just have to do it.
The fear of judgment is why many of us have trouble moving forward and doing what’s right. Politicians, for instance, are too worried about getting re-elected. They’re too worried about doing something controversial that might upset their base, so they go against their own judgment far too often. As Leaders, we need to trust what we feel is right.
We need to think for ourselves and stay true to our values. We need to ask ourselves, how will our actions affect the people we’ve committed to serving?
Injustice is bigger than any one person
When you find yourself scared at the moment, too scared to respond, we need to realize that often the situation at hand is far bigger and more important than our ego. Its ramifications are more important than our seat in public office or even our career.
Yes, you read that right.
Even if speaking up could upset the very person responsible for your promotion or landing a new job, you have a responsibility to act.
The next time you witness someone treating another person with disrespect or you’re in the position to oppose an act that could harm others, do what you know is right. Stay strong in your convictions even if it means going against the grain. In the end, we’re all in this together. We’re all connected so we have to stand up for one another.
How would you respond?
How would you respond in a moment of injustice? Think about it. What if you saw a police officer harassing a person based solely on their race or class? What would you do?
Practice saying no to little offenses, so that when we have the chance to speak up in those bigger moments that really matter, you’re ready. Experience how it feels to be a lone voice and get used to it. It’s hard, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. It takes courage. Practice getting into that uncomfortable place. Learn where to say something, and where to use other methods of intervention. The organization, Hollaback, has excellent By-Stander Training workshops, as well.
Once you do it, pause and reflect on how it feels to stay true to your conviction. What was the result? Your actions may not always have their intended consequence but you can feel proud that you tried. You tried to do what you felt was right and sometimes, that’s the best we can do.
I’d love to hear from you …
Have you ever spoken out against injustice or wanted to speak out but couldn’t muster the courage? What did you learn from this experience? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments.