My wise teacher began by saying, "There is a lot of unrest and uncertainty in world these days, my boy, and many humans are at odds with those who look and think differently than they do. But from where I sit, individuality is a beautiful thing. And having the right to be who you are is a right that needs defending. Remember, Irwin, a strong frog stands up for himself; a stronger frog stands up for others." It's hard enough, I thought to myself, to stand up for my beliefs so how on earth can I stand up for someone else's? I guess that Dharma was reading my mind...he does that from time to time...because he seemed to understand that I was struggling a bit with this concept.
"You know that bullying, harassment, and discrimination are wrong, Tadpole, and you may be wondering how you, one small green frog, can intervene and support victims of this kind of abuse. It can feel scary, I know. So many humans...and frogs, too...are often reluctant to step in. But know that one voice can, and does, make a difference." And with that, he gave me three powerful ways that anyone, even me, can use to stand up for the rights of others. Be Assertive. Don't wait for the victim to speak up and ask for help. They may feel too threatened, or ashamed, to asked. It can feel overwhelming to be the first one to speak up. But when you do, others will often find their own courage and speak out, too. 1. Interrupt the harassment. Assess the situation to see if you can safely intervene. Look for weapons, determine is the perpetrator is making physical threats, and if the victim is injured. If any of these is happening, immediately get local law enforcement and call emergency services. If, after your evaluation, you feel that it is safe then step in between the bully and the victim. Start a conversation with the victim and let them decide if they want you to help, or not. If they do, try to remove them from the situation as quickly and as safely as possible. You can do this whether you know the person or not. Conversation starters might go something like this, "Hey! There you are! I've been looking all over for you!" or "Oh my gosh! Is it really you? How long has it been since we've seen each other?" In an effort to interrupt the abuse the victim will, most likely, play all with you. A perceived relationship with the person who is being bullied or discriminated against can sometimes help to de-escalate the the situation; especially if you are the same color, race, or gender as the attacker. This may make the aggressor more willing to listen to what you have to say. And alert others to what is happening. Do what you can to stop this kind of behavior from happening again.
2. Supporting the victim. Listening to the victim is another way to help. Listen to their story and ask for what they need in order to move through this. Help them find the appropriate services and agencies with trained professionals who can assistant them. You can call the police on their behalf. Or contact victim services. If you were present when the abuse occurred, offer to be a witness for them if legal proceeding occur. And let the victim be upset. They will need time to rant, rave, and grieve what happened to them. Be patient and listen.
3. Prevent bullying, harassment, and discrimination from happening. Another way to stand up for others is to put an end to unkind, hurtful, and dangerous conversations. Speak up and speak out. Stop these conversations from escalating into something more than just talk. If you know of someone who is discriminating against others, report them. Bad behavior towards aggressors will lead to more bad behavior. Be strong, but also be kind.
Former US president, Barack Obama once said, "Part of the price for our own freedom, is standing up for the freedom of others." And how right he is! Talk is cheap, as they say. It's easy to smile and say you believe in rights for everyone, but not as easy to actually speak up and take a stand against the kinds of demoralizing and often illegal behavior we see happening daily, both domestically and abroad. Cyber-bullying is huge. If you don't believe me, just ask any kid. I bet they have at least one friend who's been a victim. One of the best ways to help is to talk to those who are different from you. Hear their stories and learn about their lives. Widen your circle of friends to include others that may belong to different ethnic, racial, or religious groups. Promote a culture of empathy at your school or place of employment. And volunteer to help agencies who actively work to promote equality for all.
Everyone deserves respect. Dharma always reminds me of that. And today's lesson gave me some good ideas as to ways that I can become a stronger frog by standing up for the rights of others. I hope you'll join me in this fight for justice; for equality for all. Being different is bad. It's just being different. And that is a beautiful thing.