Standing Idly By

It’s something that I find so difficult.  To stand idly by and do nothing when someone is being hurt.  Some people find it easy to say “it’s none of my business“,  or “I’m not getting involved” but for me it’s so hard.

A few years ago I was out walking one morning with some friends.  We had been walking alongside the Avon River, which flows through Christchurch, NZ when we noticed a mother duck leading her ducklings (about 10 from memory) onto a road bridge to cross the river.  From my observation (I live near the river) ducks don’t have the best road sense and in breeding time it is a common sight at the end of my street to see peak hour traffic grind to a halt as a mother duck leads her young across the road.

Back to the ones crossing the bridge this particular morning, without even need for discussion we could see that traffic was not going to be able to see the duck family in time to stop, and so we formed a kind of human shield at the back of the ducklings, while one of our group tried to herd them onto the footpath.  As it turned out, no duck or human was hurt that day.  The traffic could see us much easier than the ducklings and so their lives were saved.

I am very clear that many people wouldn’t have done anything to help the ducks to safety that day.  They’d say “it’s none of my business“,  or “I’m not getting involved” or even “they’re just ducks“.  That attitude makes me kind of sad, although I recognise that it is perhaps a much more stress-free approach to life.

English: Duck and ducklings, Frogmore "Go...
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My stress levels have been peaking this week, and I’ve found myself with physical symptoms of stress that I haven’t had since Christchurch was in the thick of earthquakes in 2010/11.  Life has been pretty stressful lately but actually it wasn’t about my life that I was getting stressed.  This is interesting because it was what I could see happening to other people (whom I don’t personally know) that was stressing me more than what was happening in my own life.

“You don’t just give up.  You don’t just let things happen.  You take a stand!  You say no! You have the guts to do what’s right, even when everyone else just runs away.”

 – Mia Kaim

And this is where I get stuck.  I might have the guts to do what’s right, but sometimes it is at the expense of myself.  I could stand up to the person who I can see harming others, and a big part of me wants to.  That big part says those people being hurt deserve to have someone stand up for them.  I realise that it’s like I’m stuck in this battle of is it me, or is it them?  Who is going to get hurt the most?  Actually in this case, the other people are being hurt much more than what effect it has/would have on me, yet I am also aware of that there probably would be a personal cost to me.

From an early age my mother would tell you that I ‘collected’ what she called ‘lame ducks’ (that always seemed rather uncharitable to me) or people who needed my help, or needed to be ‘saved’ by me.  She’s right, I did seem to collect people like that and I think her worst fear was that I would marry one of them and maybe produce ‘lame duck’ grandchildren (I didn’t).  Actually I think my father did much the same as I did in collecting people who needed his help.  Maybe its genetic, but I just hate to see someone being hurt, or mistreated.

I don’t find this one at all easy.  I talking about the general dilemma rather than the specific issue in front of me right now.  I simply don’t find the “don’t get involved/it’s none of my business” argument that easy to sit with when people are being hurt.  Actually I’d go so far as to say that I sometimes wish I was the type of person who could take that approach.  It must be so much easier to simply turn your back and walk away, but even as I write that I’m screaming “That is so wrong!“.

“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” 

— E.B. White


5 thoughts on “Standing Idly By

  1. I cannot turn my back and walk away. I have been like it all my life and will have compassion for those who are either having a bad time or getting a hard time. It’s the main reason why I cannot keep up to date with news.

    If people had a fraction of your compassion, this world would be a better place. We seem to thrive in a world of “I’m alright, Jack”, where we have less time for anything other than ourselves.

    1. I know that feeling of needing to shelter myself from world events. They hurt, deep down inside. And you know what? I think I’m getting more susceptible to this as I grow older. I’m not sure if that is real or imagined, but so it seems.

  2. Oh, I’m the same and I think it is real. The more we go through ourselves, the more compassion we have for others. Of course, not everyone is like this, but thank goodness we are!

  3. I am one of those people who cannot just stand idly by as well. In the process I get hurt a whole lot. The one exception is with animals. Our collection of pet cats just seems to grow and grow. Drives my father crazy but they end up loving me and I them, so oh well!

    1. It’s so hard just to do nothing. I hate that feeling but as you say often anything otherwise ends up hurting a great deal. It’s hard to make the call and decide what if anything to do. But hey, for cats? It’s worth it. 😀

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