10 Reasons Why Good People Stay Silent

Suicide Monkey

Photo by Jason Rogers via Flickr

Recently somebody asked me why I spend so much time publicizing issues like workplace bullying, abuse, human trafficking, feminism, abuses in organized religion, and the importance of outing and prosecuting child molesters.

I understood the subtext of the question: “You must have been a victim, right?” As if nobody in their right mind would care about this type of thing unless they had been personally tortured.

The truth is not that dramatic, and yet it is. I simply realized one day that G-d gave me a voice and I am supposed to use it to try and speak for those who can’t. I love this video of Daughtry’s song “What About Now” – it captures the idea completely:

It is true that people who take a stand can become victims themselves. Remember Judy Blume’s classic young adult book, Blubber?

“Though the entire class ostracizes Linda (“Blubber”), Wendy and her best friend and sidekick Caroline are Linda’s chief tormentors and bully her both physically…and psychologically…..

“(Until) Jill (another student in the class), frustrated with herself for so readily following Wendy’s lead, finally stands up to Wendy….Wendy, furious that Jill has dared to question her authority, threatens to make Jill “sorry [she was] ever born”.

“Jill comes to school the next morning to find that Wendy has made good on her threat and turned the entire class against her….Jill’s tormentors include Linda, who is more than willing to bully one of her former harassers.”

The older I get the more I see that there are two kinds of people in the world. Some are willing to take a stand – even if quietly and behind the scenes. Others are not.

Generally the reasons for silence fall into one of 10 categories:

1. “I don’t want them coming after me.” (Refer to above.)

2. “Not my problem.”

3. “People will think that I was a victim.”

4. “What can I possibly do to help?”

5. “Look around you – that stuff seems a little exaggerated.”

6. “Can’t you see those people are crazy?”

7. “It’s sad, but I have bigger things to worry about.”

8. “That’s what therapists are for – it’s not really something you demonstrate about.”

9. “If it didn’t happen to me, why should I care?”

10. “Honestly, it’s just depressing.”

If you are on the fence, think about it from the perspective of your death. How do you want to remember your life?

I think about it this way: How many years, months or days do I have left before G-d forbid something happens, and I have to spend so much time at the doctor’s office that I can’t do anything for anyone anymore?

I’m inspired by the folks who stood up for the victims at last week’s Jewish protest (in New York) to protect children from child abuse.

If you have time, I highly recommend reading what they had to put up with, because it really stirred me up to stand up for the victims even more:

Overheard at the Asifa Protest: Quotes, Moments, & Vignettes – By Shulem Deen | Unpious.com

We hold free, in-person training events in the nation's capital where you can learn best practices and network with top government leaders. Sign up to join us!

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Profile Photo Henry Brown

1A: Fear:

Can be fear of many different things; Including what will others think of me? Will they take me seriously? Rejection of my ideas?

David B. Grinberg

Interesting post, Dannielle. Lot’s of good points.

I think the biggest issue is #4. Most people who want to make positive change by speaking out have a general feeling of helplessness against entrenched and powerful societal institutions — whether corporate or government.

These folks don’t understand the “Power of One” principle: all it takes is one person, one whistle blower to make a difference. This is especially true if one contemplates speaking out against a large institution that will then turn against the whistleblower via a major retaliatory attack to damage their credibility (#1).

Here’s an inspirational YouTube video about the Power of One — a bit cheesy but true IMO.

It all reminds me of that age-old quote by Edmund Burke:

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men [or women] do nothing.”

Profile Photo Dannielle Blumenthal

That is an inspirational video.

I think it’s true that people feel helpless – what can one man do against the mountain and what does it matter anyway.

However when I hear that argument I am reminded of something Holocaust survivors tell me over and over again: The Nazis didn’t just “suddenly” take over.

Rather it was slow and insidious, fueled by propaganda and social pressure and a lot of people looking the other way or staying silent or even benefiting from what was going on. Trying to save themselves even at the expense of others.

That’s why it’s better to focus on small things rather than wait till the problems are so big they’re almost insurmountable.

It is always extremely, extremely difficult to be the one to say something…there is no way around that and it never feels comfortable or easy to do. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar. And if you do speak up, you will get all sorts of negative blowback from people around you. But like someone very smart once said to me “let your conscience be your guide” and if you do that you can never go too far off.