My neighbor came over to ask me if I knew what was going on with our neighbor. He said there was a man asking questions about him. He pointed out a couple of things that he noticed were different as of late. I had no new information. Actually, I had no information. As he walked away he made a derogatory remark about our neighbor based on his skin color. I was shocked that he called him a name that was meant to be so cutting. Sadly, and embarrassingly, I was silent. I just stood there slack-jawed.
Why didn’t I say anything? I have friends that are the same color as my neighbor. I began to wonder if that is what he thinks about my friends when they come over to visit? I was so mad that I didn’t say anything. I was frustrated and ashamed by my silence. I hate to admit it, but I was afraid to say anything.
What is strange to me is that I am pretty outspoken when someone is getting picked on or bullied. I have stood up to strangers in defense of the ‘little guy.’ I have confronted noisy people in the movie theaters. But with my neighbor, I was silent. That is so frustrating.
Part of what the Gospel is about standing up for those who are marginalized and mistreated. It is about standing up for people that cannot stand up for themselves. It is about speaking for people with no voice. And I didn’t do any of that.
Then I started to think that if fear can immobilize me from something little like this, what makes me think fear doesn’t keep me from doing other things? Would I stand by or stand up in the midst of the civil rights movement? Would I have fought to end slavery? Will I stand against those that are mistreating their children? Would I have been a friend to the Jews in the Holocaust? Would I have stood against Apartheid? Would I have done something if I lived in Rwanda during the massacre? Will I remain silent if this happens again? What will fear keep me from doing? Will I stand by or will I stand up the next time something like this occurs?
We can choose to stand by when the foe seems too big or too powerful. Here are two videos that show just what one person can do when they decide to stand up for what is right.
Red by Spirit Clips and Heroes: Tank Man
We have the Spirit of the Living God on our side. If God is for us, who could possibly be against us?
I need courage and wisdom to face the ugliness of this world. I think I need to learn to stand up in those times and not simply stand by.
What about you? Have you ever caught yourself standing by when God would have you stand up?
4 thoughts on “Standing by or standing up?”
I have to agree with Penny that it was shock and not fear that silenced you. I chuckle trying to visualize you as a wimp, it just doesn’t fit. Shock that was it. As far as him being a church goer, no surprise in that. I don’t think you can talk or argue people out of their predjudices, it just makes them mad. I would advise a barbecue or block party with both parties invited. Knowledge is the best melter of predjudice in my experience.
Would you, do you, speak up against injustice? Sure you do! I can think of quite a few specific examples in the short time I knew you. May the same be said of me. Example is the best teacher, that’s what I admired most about you. Your actions were consistent with your words. It was shock for sure.
It wouldn’t surprise me if this bigot actually considers himself ‘a good person’. I’d possibly have been shocked into (momentary) silence as well. Even now, it isn’t too late to confront him about the hatred he is harboring in his heart; since ‘out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’. In this circumstance, perhaps loving your neighbor means speaking unpleasant truth into his life.
Wonder what he says about YOU when you’re not there…
He is even a church goer. One of the first things I did was apologize to my friends for not speaking up. He has said other things that I have spoken up about. This one still sticks in my craw. There is a conversation brewing…I can feel it.
I think your silence was shear shock at the disgusting manner that this neighbor spoke. I have never been one to be too quiet when seeing others getting picked on, and have confronted people on using derogatory language about others. I have been bullied, teased, made fun of for how I look, talk, act and my religious preference and had racial epitaphs used against me. I have seen my friends and family sit by and let it happen and have had them be the instigators as well. I will not allow that to happen to another. I am sorry that this is the kind of person you have to live next to.