What Does It Mean To Be An Upstander, By A Guest Blogger


An UPSTANDER is defined as someone who recognizes when something is wrong and acts to make it right. When we stand up for what is right, and do our best to help support and protect someone who is being hurt, we are being socially responsible.

The first thing that comes to mind is bullying since it’s been getting a great deal of media attention, and with good reason, but there is much more to this term than taking a stand against bullying. Here are my thoughts on what being an upstander is about (maybe a slightly less conventional spin on it)…

I went on a field trip with my daughter to the Dallas Holocaust Museum recently. It was heart-wrenching but at the same time inspiring to learn about all the people who took a stand to help others, and those who survived. It also makes me so grateful for those, like my dad, who risked their lives for the freedom of others. The message during the tour was ‘are you being a bystander or an upstander?’. Makes you think. How are we being upstanders in our world today and fighting for those who can not, or simply choosing to make a difference even in the smallest of ways?

I was born and raised in South Africa, grew up in the apartheid era and was blessed to see it come to an end because of upstanders; people who overcame their fears for the freedom of others. My dad was one of those people. He taught me what it means to have determination and courage to stand up for others and to take a stand for what I believe in, but being an upstander is not just taking a stand on a grand scale but it’s also in the small decisions we make every day.

A great example of this are stories I’ve heard about people who were on the brink of suicide when a stranger reached out to them with just a smile or started a conversation; things we do on a daily basis and sometimes take for granted but can literally make the difference between life and death for someone else. In that case, we may not know that something is wrong but in choosing to do little things out of love and kindness, we make more of a difference than we realize.

So often we feel like we are such a small fish in a giant pond; that our actions don’t really matter compared to other people who have a greater stage and are much more visible, but the truth is all change starts with one small action. It’s the ripple effect, or the butterfly effect that comes into play. What I mean by this is we don’t know who may be watching or who we may be inspiring daily to take action in their own lives. Those people, in turn, can inspire others, and so on.

I can list so many people who have inspired me in so many ways and some of them simply by always having a positive attitude and sharing a smile. I will never forget them. One of these people is someone I have never even met. I just know her as the young lady I would sometimes see in the hallways or in the elevator who never failed to give everyone a beautiful smile. That alone would make my day. She may not be an upstander in a vocal way, but her actions spoke volumes. It said to me that no matter what I’m facing today I’m going to have a positive attitude and brighten someone else’s day and help lift them up. I’m sure she helped more people than she realized. She may not have had that intention, but she certainly did that for me! Her actions also gave me pause to think about how I’m impacting the lives of others.

There are many other ways to take a stand, such as donating to a cause we believe in, attending a rally, speaking up for someone who was wronged, writing a letter, signing a petition, etc. It’s also important not to just take a stand for others, but also for ourselves. When we stand up for ourselves and what we believe in from a place of respect and not anger or resentment, we inspire others and build our self confidence.

We can all be superheroes daily. The magic is in the every day moments. How will you choose to be an upstander? What part do you play in making this world a better place? YOU matter. Your actions matter. Don’t underestimate your power.

If you haven’t found your passion yet and are not sure what you need to do to make a difference in your life and in the lives of others so you live each day with purpose, joy and fulfillment, I would love to speak with you to see if I can be of assistance.

Note: The Author of this beautiful article is a Leadership Coach. You can use the link below to sign up for a free strategy session:



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