Are you guilty of passive inaction?
HUH? What on earth is that?
Passive Inaction is seeing something wrong and not taking action to create change or stop the wrong. It’s seeing a child riding their bike too close to the road and not stopping to let the parents know. It’s watching someone be bullied and not stepping in. It’s listening to rumors and not speaking up to say “I don’t like gossip, can we change the subject”. It’s seeing a situation that is completely out of control and not speaking up because you don’t want to “get involved”.
How many of us are guilty of passive inaction? I would imagine that at some point in our lives we have all been guilty of this. I remember, quite clearly, one specific time I was. A neighbor was giving me a ride to his church to get food for Thanksgiving. During this ride he was telling very racist jokes that were making me feel disgusted. (I don’t like the “N” word at all) I felt trapped. Here was this “Christian” man kindly giving me a ride to get much needed food for my family, while at the same time offending my sense of humanity. I never said a word. I just grinned stupidly and prayed the ride would soon be over.
In this case my passive inaction was probably in my own best interest and I convinced myself it was out of a sense of being polite. My action may not have changed anything except his willingness to have me in his vehicle and my inaction only served to pain me for a short ride. However, I have never forgotten that day. I have never stopped feeling like I should have said something.
Another time I was passively inactive I simply thank heavens that nothing bad came of it. I was driving to the store and I was in a bit of a rush. I saw a very young, maybe 3 or 4 years old, child riding his bike outside his fenced in yard very near the road with no adult in sight. I had a feeling he was not supposed to be out there and that the parents did not know. I thought about stopping but instead kept driving. This was passive inaction.
ME! This woman who has lost a child in a very similar situation, kept driving. As I entered the store I was already berating myself for not stopping. I rushed through my list, forgetting several items, and headed home. On the drive back the boy was no longer out there, but I still felt I needed to stop. Nervously I pulled into the drive, got out of my car, and walked to the door. After knocking, a young man answered and I explained my reason for being there. The young man was the little boy’s uncle and was babysitting. He hadn’t known the child had been so near the road and thanked me. I don’t know if my stopping made any difference but I know if I didn’t stop and something had happened to that child I would never forgive myself.
Most people don’t want to get involved. Most people don’t want to upset the stranger, neighbor, friend, and speak up. As my mother used to say so often “Don’t rock the boat, Tracy.” But I’m a boat rocker! I cannot sit by and watch as bad things transpire. I’m the girl who says “I don’t want to hear your negative words about him/her.” I’m the girl who freaks out if you use the “N” word in front of me. I’m the girl who stops to help the stranger or warn a parent of potential danger. I’m the girl who grabs the child out of harms way and then looks for their parent.
Have I been guilty of passive inaction? Of course I have. We all have, no matter how good our intentions might be. I don’t forget those times though and I use them to fuel my courage for the next time I need to speak up, warn, help, or reach out.