I Refuse to Believe
As we honor National Hazing Prevention Week, I want to challenge us all to think about the unnecessary and harmful act of hazing from all angles. While there are certainly the two obvious parties involved in, and impacted by, hazing — the victims and the perpetrator(s) — I want to address the rest of us who may see, hear or even know about these acts. Much has been, and will be, talked about this week in regards to those impacted directly by these unnecessary acts.
However, I will argue that we don’t talk enough about the third party to hazing — the bystanders. While we are certainly shining the spotlight this week on hazing, it’s also important to include other often related problem behaviors like bullying, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual violence, discrimination and everyday life issues. By including these, it’s safe to say we are all bystanders. We have all witnessed problem behaviors in our lives and, while there have certainly been times where we intervened, there are way too many times we didn’t.
We stayed silent. We laughed along. We walked away. We participated. We froze.
When it comes to these actions — or inactions — from ourselves and others, I refuse to believe this is what we actually want to do in that moment of time. I refuse to believe that we don’t care and want to make the difference for those being impacted. I refuse to believe that we don’t know the difference between right and wrong. I refuse to believe that we don’t want to intervene in problem situations.
And, I refuse to believe that every single one of us doesn’t want to be a hero for others, for organizations we love, and for issues we care about.
I choose to believe that we do care and that we want the best for each other. I believe that every person has values of love, compassion, caring, respect, and acceptance — and these act as our moral compass. I believe that we really do want to intervene and make the difference for others — to keep each other safe and protected — to show dignity and respect.
And, I believe we all want to be heroes.
We are all committed to being a certain kind of human being in life and there are actions we want to take as a demonstration of who we say we are and want to be for others. In our own respective and unique ways, we actually say “this is who I am and this is what you can count on me for!”
So, here’s the question: do your actions in life match what you say? Is the “you” that shows up in life — especially in critical momentary situations — a match for who you say you are and the commitments you have?
If I gave you a hypothetical scenario — one where someone was in trouble and needed your intervention — and asked you what you would do, would you say you would intervene in some way? I believe you would. I believe we all would. If you take all the reasons, justifications, excuses, doubts, fears, and rationalizations away from the equation, we all believe that we would intervene in that situation. It’s the noble thing to say and this matches who we say we are in life. But, not so quick.
Let’s look at the Penn State child rape and sexual abuse case — already one of the most layered cases of bystander behavior. I actually refuse to believe that Coach Mike McQueary is an awful villain, as many have made him out to be. I believe he really did want to immediately intervene when he walked into that shower and saw Jerry Sandusky sodomizing that 10-year-old boy. Yet, what he did and didn’t do became water cooler conversation for days — many of us being armchair quarterbacks for what he should have done.
Here’s my take: what happened to Mike McQueary happens to all of us — our alter ego takes over. There is the person we are all committed to being in life. Then, in the reality of a situation, there is the “you” that shows up in that moment of time. Unfortunately, it’s not the “you” that you wanted to show up. It’s a “you” that lets fear take over. It’s a “you” that listens to your naysayers, even to your own internal voice. It’s a “you” that does nothing — or doesn’t do enough.
I believe most of us are no different than Mike McQueary. We are no better. While we want to believe otherwise, we don’t know what we will actually do in the reality of any momentary choice. We simply want to believe we will do what is right.
How do I know this? What evidence do I have? As I travel the country and speak, I invite audience members to text me and share their stories. I have received thousands of stories on the impact of bystander behavior — as a bystander or as a victim to others being bystanders. The stories are heartbreaking. So many of us have had at least one moment that made a lasting impact and mark on our lives — one that we have never forgotten. One that we have never forgiven ourselves or others for.
To the positive, I have had conversations with many of these same people and they share that they do care and they do want to do what is right. I also receive texts, emails, Facebook messages and submissions on our website where people are now taking actions that match their values — they are actually intervening in problem situations. Many of them share they literally would not have done what they did without hearing the message of the RESPONSE ABILITY® Project and holding themselves accountable.
I hope you are now asking, “How do I have my actions match who I am committed to being in life?” Great question!
I want to provide you the three critical tools I have put together as a framework for being equipped and empowered in life — no matter your age, roles in life, or gender — to make the difference you want to make and to be a hero. These are three life skills you can use for the rest of your life — in any moment when you say there is a problem.
To get these critical tools, go to the Alpha Chi Omega page on the RESPONSE ABILITY Project website and take the Every|Day Hero™ pledge. Once you take the pledge, you will immediately receive an email from me with a link to download a PDF of the three tools and also view a special training video I have recorded.
In closing, I refuse to believe you don’t want to make this difference. I refuse to believe there is anything you want more than to live out this pledge in your life. Go ahead, try and convince me otherwise — I just refuse to believe we are anything less than caring, loving, extraordinary human beings who just want to make the difference for others, for our organizations and for issues we care about.
I refuse to believe.
This is what allows me to totally believe in the good in all of us.
Alpha Chi Omega is proud to be an official sponsor of the RESPONSE ABILITY Project and the Every|Day Hero Campaign.
Mike Dilbeck is Founder & President of the RESPONSE ABILITY Project and also Founder of the Every|Day Hero Campaign. Every year, Mike speaks to thousands of college students as a CAMPUSPEAK speaker and member of the National Speakers Association. When he is not traveling, he works on expanding the RA Project, writing articles and blogs, conducting training and workshops, and appearing in the media.