Standing up for what we believe in, and for what is important, is a necessary function of the human condition. Passively standing by, rather than taking a stand, often communicates silent endorsement or approval of behaviour. This is especially true when it is challenging or negative behaviour that can have harmful impacts.
It was once often said that if we don’t stand for something, we might fall for anything. And in old speak, “united we stand, divided we fall” was a mantra that implied that if we did not stand together, we would fall apart. However, while this was really about joining together with a common goal in unity, support, and cooperation, the phrase was often used in contexts such as war and conflict, leading to a segregation, division, and an “us and them” mentality.
People stopped standing with, and started standing against.
The mantra of recent times changed: “If you are not with us, then you’re against us”. Where “taking a stand” had been an expression of our personal values, it shifted and became used as an accusation by people in positions of power.
There is nothing wrong with taking a stand. But standing up does not need to mean standing against. At The Bullying Revolution, we have advocated for a shift away away from “standing against” terminology as necessary to creating cultural change. Organisations must evolve as they learn and grow, and we ditched the “standing against” language when we realised how its use may be negatively construed, even though we were always focused on building a kindness approach.
The only thing we take away is negativity and hostility.
It is really quite simple to shift language while maintaining a position and taking a stand. Take for example, the context of recent events in the global media involving protests following gun violence. In response to this, we would not say that we stand against gun ownership; we would say that we stand for an end to gun violence, and that we stand with youth protestors. The only thing we remove in this shift is negativity and hostility – the things that foster violence.
Let’s work towards proactively standing for something, rather than taking sides against things.
Take a stand: stand up, stand for, stand with, stand together.