The Bystander Effect

The bystander effect is when people don’t help someone if others are present: the more people, the less likely any one of them will help.  Doctors have observed that, first, somebody has to notice it; then interpret it, decide whether to act, what kind of action, and then move.  By the time all these decisions are made, the deed is done!

What we’re talking about is ambiguity; uncertainty; doubt: too busy; hard-pressed to decide.  And if it’s unfamiliar territory, chances are we’ll stand back, leaving it to someone “more qualified.”

The Good Samaritan would have none of this.  He was in a strange town, among strangers: that didn’t stop him.  He showed empathy and altruism: good qualities that must be learned and deliberately, sacrificially practiced.

Most people don’t jump in to help because they fear it will risk another relationship they have.  The only way they’ll help is perhaps with the assistance of an ombudsman (one who mediates between aggrieved parties).  Outside of that, they’re going to keep on walking.  This is upside-down! Loving our neighbor enriches the relationship with the one in need, and—if we know Him, it brings us closer to God.  And if helping somebody is going to risk losing a relationship?  Maybe we’re trying to save the wrong relationship!!!!! !!!!! !!!!! !!!!!

Those who can sit idly by while someone is hurt, maligned, cheated, or otherwise thrown under the bus, are anything but “innocent bystanders.”  They are doubly guilty, because they know—deep down—that their lack of action is a grievous, wretched sin.

This is the behavior of children: they trivialize what they shouldn’t, detach when they should engage, are embarrassed by association with “the wrong person,” are selfish, crave fitting in, and are just plain lazy.

It’s time we quit acting like schoolyard punks, People—and grow up.


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