Illustration of the Bystander Effect

Last week, I was hanging out in one of my favorite corners of the internet, a Patreon hosted by two of my most revered inspirations. I arrived at their hub and joyfully watched another video of their delectable content: an advice podcast in which they provide advice to their fans' personal questions. The hosts provide their patrons advice to their individual questions, and they each provide their perspective advice from a holistic, empathic, and inclusive approach, which, in my opinion, usually results in sound advice. With that said, I find myself vehemently disagreeing with the advice, perspective, and attitude of one host's particular take on a certain question — we'll call her Host 1. We'll call her co-host Host 2.

A fan wrote in asking if they should tell their friend that they found out one of their friends has been consistently cheated on by his boyfriend for the past few months. The fan writing for advice stated that they don't have solid proof or receipts that his friend is being cheated on, but multiple people have directly told the writer of these deceitful proclivities. 

Host 1 advised against the fan telling their friend that their boyfriend has been cheating on them, fervently stating that if she, herself, were involved in this situation with a friend, she would not say anything to them. Her reasons stemmed from choosing personal convenience over the needs of the greater good of humanity — yes, humanity.

Host 1's take is as follows:

"I do not like to get involved in people's relationships — it feels like it's not my business."

She continued to say,

"I don't want to get involved in anyone's drama because I have this fear that they're going to stay together, and I'm going to end up creating an enemy when I could've just minded my fucking business the whole time. Especially when it comes to relationships, people are weird when they're in love with someone, especially if they're in a toxic relationship. They know it's toxic, and they're doing all they can in their minds to defend the toxicity — I can't thrive in a scenario like that. Especially if it's rumored, and I don't even know for sure, you're just putting yourself in drama, and you're putting yourself in someone else's drama."

Before I dissect the messy layers of this particular mindset and attitude, I have to first address the contradictions made by Host 1. She shared during this episode of their advice podcast that in the past, she did learn that Host 2's ex (who was her boyfriend at the time these experiences took place) slept with some people that Host 2 knew before they got together — and, made a choice to tell Host 2 about this, despite it being an action that is usually very out of character for Host 1. These two hosts share the intimate bond of being best friends, which warranted a confrontation about this sensitive information in our host's eyes, coupled with certainty that this person did, in fact, sleep with said people. With that, the contradictory nature of these two different situations is viewed and approached as problematic and regressive to individual relationships and the collective. 

Furthermore, Host 1 expanded on the fan's question by saying if the fan's scenario pertained to her co-host, she would confront her about it by saying:

"Yeah, girl, I just want you to know that I heard — from someone else — that this might be happening. I do not know that it's a fact. I don't want to insinuate that it's a fact because I don't know that, but I have heard that this is happening. So now you know and what do you want for dinner?" 

So Host 1's advice to the fan is, "I do not like to get involved in people's relationships — it feels like it's not my business". Yet in reality, when this type of situation did apply to her reality, she took action that opposed her advice by "getting involved" in her friend's relationship when this situation applied to her.

AND she said she'd tell Host 2 about these rumors if they arose and pertained to her and her respective relationship.

Your logic is flawed, ma'am!

Also, I want to address a word that Host 1 said to justify her reasoning to not "get involved in people's relationships": FEAR

"I don't want to get involved in anyone's drama because I have this F E A R that they're going to stay together, and I'm going to end up creating an enemy when I could've just minded my fucking business the whole time."

Fear does not always help or serve us and our best interests. Fear aims to protect us, that's its motivation. But our modern brains are trapped in this ancient "Paleolithic fight or flight wiring", as described by Elizabeth A. Stanley, PhD. in Widen the Window: Training Your Brain and Body to Thrive During Stress and Recover from Trauma. She continues to say that "the modern world is much more complex than the world of our cave-dwelling ancestors. And uncertainty, complexity, volatility, and ambiguity are 'symbolic threats', meaning that they rarely require decisions involving mortal danger to our physical well-being right now. Nonetheless, they still turn on our Paleolithic fight-or-flight wiring."

So Host 1's fear that "they're going to stay together, and I'm going to end up creating an enemy when I could've just minded my fucking business the whole time", followed by the physiological response to seek flight instead of fight, represents a "symbolic threat" to Host 1 because that situation would not impose mortal danger to her physical well-being at that moment. But her ancient brain is perceiving this hypothetical situation as such, making her brain trigger fear and flight.

WHO ELSE RELATES TO THIS FEELING & EXPERIENCE?!

We ALL have felt this way in response to a vulnerable occurrence in an interpersonal relationship.

And the reason we have these responses and choose to react with avoidance is because human relationships are vital to human survival and thriving. And when we discern that danger may be creeping into our valued relationships, we feel threatened, we feel at risk. We get into defense mode to protect what we love and treasure.

BUT

Our brains trick us into thinking we have to react like a preyed upon gazelle who has to evade a lion it noticed 300 meters away before it's selected as a dinner entre.

Emotions, unlike physical altercations, can be navigated with more time and patience -- and with empathy. This is why we must turn toward each other, lean into one another, and communicate effectively within our relationships. Human relationships are not designed to be weaponized like the weapons of primal hunting. So use your human skills of empathy and communication: be vulnerable and be honest. This is what serves everyone best.

Host 2 continued to ask Host 1, "what if you saw Noodle's husband cheating on her? Would you take a picture?"

Host 1 says:

"If I heard through the grapevine that Noodle's husband was cheating, I would not say a word, I wouldn't utter a single world, I wouldn't say shit. Never would I ever mention it. Because again, Noodle and I talk twice a year...I would not take a picture, I would not say or do anything, I would mind my business — I would not say a word. Noodle has children — I'm not going to drop a bomb that is going to explode all over her family — that's not my business!"

"...That's not my business!"

I'm going to say now: that is...

If we're going to talk about minding our business, I pose this clarifying question to us all: what then, is our business?


"Mind your own business" is a common idiom that asks for respect for each other's privacy. It suggests that a person(s) should stop interfering in what does not affect or concern themselves.

Here's the thing: here in America, and in all Western cultures, we live in an individualistic society. Meaning we tend to fuel and maintain an "it's me against the World" mentality — we're out for ourselves and ourselves only. And one of the most effective ways we choose to remain unaffected by relationships with our fellow humans is to conduct ourselves in a manner that abides by a code of dishonesty. Because contrary to the falsity, we tell ourselves that other people's relationships don't affect us. In truth, they do. They do because every action we take, every decision we make, every choice we enact has a ripple effect and affects the collective whether we're aware of it or not! Host 1 choosing not to tell Noodle about this hypothetical scenario that her husband is or may be cheating on her affects Host 1 because she is negatively contributing to the problem of dishonesty that plagues our human society. When we don't speak up and don't advocate for others, we enable fuckery!

This is exactly why I say we should reject the concept of humility — because humility warps our perception of the very fabric of humanity and prevents us from understanding and accepting that every action we make has a reaction, often unbeknownst to us right away! When individuals have and show a low or modest view of their importance, of their worth, they don't wear masks during a pandemic, they don't practice anti-racism, they don't vote, they don't help others, and they don't advocate for or nurture themselves. All of these absent actions are counterproductive to the progression of humanity!

Moreover, while I am a strong advocate of the ideology that we as individuals do not exist for the comfort and convenience of others and that we should pledge allegiance to ourselves, I reject the notion that self-service and collective service cannot exist harmoniously. Self-service and collective service should work in tandem to progress human society and benefit the collective.

We don’t exist for the comfort and convenience of others but we do exist to serve each other with kindness and empathy.

Hearing Host 1's take on this matter disappointed and infuriated me! OF COURSE, I think the fan who wrote in for advice should absolutely tell their friend they've been told by multiple people that their boyfriend is cheating on them — COMMUNICATION IS KEY in every relationship, regardless of the level of intimacy. And regrettably, the majority of us are severely lacking the effective communication skills needed to successfully navigate necessary confrontation, conflict, discourse, and awkward/serious conversations. 

What's more, I largely agree with the approach and language used by Host 1 when she said she would confront Host 2 about this had this matter pertained to her! I can't help but scream in my head, "WHY CAN'T PEOPLE BE EMPATHETIC, FORTHRIGHT, AND KIND?! WHY AREN'T MORE PEOPLE EMPATHETICALLY PURPOSE-DRIVEN?!"

In reality, I know the reason: because human beings prioritize doing our most convenient instead of truly doing our best.

The commonly preached phrase and attitude I hear and see preached with increasing regularity are: "we all are doing our best" and "everyone is doing their best" is simply not true — that narrative is wack and wrong, as proven by the immense amount of complacency and avoidance that permeates our relationships and collective human society.


Revolutionary researcher and vulnerability visionary, Brené Brown, teaches us that "human beings are neurobiologically hardwired for connection, and in the absence of that there is always suffering." While we humans strive to exist in mutually fulfilling and meaningful relationships with one another, platonic and romantic, we tend to dissuade ourselves from navigating those relationships with virtue and integrity. Instead, we opt to navigate them with personal convenience, pleasure, and profit at the forefront. These actions of putting one's pleasure and profit first without the consideration of others are those of selfishness, which are contrary to acts of self-service, or putting one's welfare and interest first before those of others. Selfishness has no place in mutually fulfilling, aligned relationships, nor does it serve to push the collective forward in nurturing more vulnerability and empathy.

It’s our duty to create the world we want to live in. And we create that world by making those changes & shifts in our reality first; we are the individual catalysts to the collective ripple effect.

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We all want to live in a society — in a world — with more empathy, more kindness, more compassion, more HONESTY, more TRANSPARENCY, more TRUST, and more ADVOCACY. But we cannot create that world if we do not create more honesty, transparency, trust, and advocacy in our lives — in our world — FIRST. We've GOT to be there for one another EVEN when it's hard and inconvenient — ESPECIALLY then! 

Because we are a social species and need each other not only to survive but also to thrive, I believe in a world where everyone is deserving of and entitled to an advocate. The problem is that we live in a world where no one is guaranteed an advocate. So, I'm creating the world I want to live in by championing us all to advocate for others that we would want for ourselves.

When Host 1 says,

"I can't thrive in a scenario like that. Especially if it's rumored, and I don't even know for sure, you're just putting yourself in drama; you're putting yourself in someone else's drama"...

As previously stated, being self-serving means putting our welfare and interest first. Our welfare is our health, our physical & emotional safety, our well-being, and our quality of life. So, choosing not to disclose to Noodle rumors that may be true, rumors that may inflict harm on her reality — whether they represent the truth or not — whether they're close friends or not, is not about Host 1's welfare; it's about Host 1's convenience. Choosing not to share these rumors or truth with Noodle is not about Host 1 protecting her peace; it's about protecting her pleasure and profit — her pleasure being in good standing with Noodle and her profit being able to benefit from that relationship in good standing.

Even though it was a hypothetical scenario, if Noodle's husband was cheating on her, and Host 1 knew about it, or simply heard rumors without knowing with certainty, and Noodles later found out that her husband was cheating, and that Host 1 knew about it or of it and didn't tell her… OOF. TALK ABOUT HARM DONE. ASS SHOWN.

Host 1 argued that choosing not to tell Noodle about her husband's cheating would better serve her because,

"I'm not going to drop a bomb that is going to explode all over her family — that's not my business!"

In actuality, Host 1's hypothetical choice to keep this from Noodle could have caused more harm to her by not being upfront when she was made aware of this truth or rumors. 

Also, Host 1 says in her statement that dropping a bomb on Noodle's family is not her business.

Um…what?!

Is someone else more suited to tell another that their husband is cheating on them? NO! It's unpleasant and unfortunate news regardless of who makes her aware of the deceit or potential deceit in her reality! Host 1 would argue that had she only heard rumors that Noodle's husband was cheating, just like the fan's question suggested, that ignorance is bliss. Welp, ignorance wouldn't be bliss for Noodle. Because in reality, ignorance isn't bliss — it's apathy, regression, and selfishness.

We don't want to ruffle feathers for fear of upsetting or offending someone. Well, birds ruffle their feathers to keep warm when it's cold, to stay cool when it's hot, to decompress when they're anxious, and to relax when they're at peace. So really, we should aim to ruffle each other's feathers! We should aim to help keep each other warm, cool, safe, and relaxed. And we do that by showing up for each other, especially in times of vulnerability, or times of "risk, uncertainty, and emotional exposure," as Brené Brown teaches. So ruffle those feathers -- be vulnerable, be honest, be the positive ripple effect.

Ready to boldly and radically advocate for yourself and others? Take the leap by enrolling in my new course called Becoming a Highly Sensitive Radical, tailored for HSPs & Trauma Survivors who are ready to harness their sensitive superpowers and begin advocating for themselves and others.