Being a Bystander Is Just as Bad as Being a Bully

by Lauren MacFadden ‘17

Most students will quickly say that they reject bullying in all of its forms. Yet bullying still occurs every day at Sherwood and many let it happen right in front of them. I am guilty of this because of something that happened earlier this year.

I was sitting in class when I heard a group of girls laughing. I looked up and saw that they were staring right at me. I looked down quickly. Was there something in my teeth? Was my hair messed up? They continued to laugh, and I became more self-conscious. And then I looked behind me. I saw a student dancing to music from her headphones. The girls continued to laugh. I turned back to my desk, looked down and pretended nothing was wrong. I didn’t speak up, and the bullying did not stop until the bell rang. I stayed silent even though I knew that if I had stood up for the student, the condescending laughing would have stopped. But I didn’t. Bullying is an awful thing, and being a simple bystander is just as blameworthy.

If it is so easy to stand up against bullies, why are there so many bystanders? It is most likely because no one wants to be the outlier; if a group of people believe in something, it is more likely that no one will object to it because they do not want to be different. There have been too many times when I have seen students laugh at others because of how they are dressed or other petty things, and I only looked on as an observer instead of stepping into the situation because of my own insecurities about not being with the majority.

This fear of being different creates a much bigger problem than we realize. It leads to a pattern of indifference that can be seen throughout history. ElieWiesel, Holocaust survivor and writer of “Night,” discussed this indifference in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, stating that, “action is the only remedy to indifference: the most insidious danger of all.” This rings truer in everyday life than perhaps people realize.

Although historical events such as the Holocaust and the fight for civil rights and equal treatment for all are on a much grander scale, bullying is still a relevant issue all around the world and at all ages. I regret my decision to be a bystander and that I allowed someone to be bullied. I allowed a pattern to be set. I allowed myself to not make a change.

Being indifferent is one of the worst decisions one can make, even though it is often times the easier option. I have learned from my experience that standing up for what is right is much more satisfying than taking the easy way out. Sometimes the more difficult road is worth it.