Are You Watching From the Sidelines? Life Is Not A Spectator Sport

Life Is Not A Spectator Sport: What's The Most Loving Choice?
Camp Nou, largest stadium in Europe.
(Photo credits: Adrià García, Flick. CC-BY-SA)

Many of us didn't choose the job or career of our dreams. Instead we let ourselves be led by potential salary, chance of advancement, or even retirement benefits. We watched (or perhaps didn't even notice) as decisions were made for us whether it had to do with the content of our food, our well-being, and our children's education.

Yet we sometimes complain that life hadn't turned out the way we had dreamed of when we were kids. In school, we were told to sit quietly and listen. At home, we were told that children should be seen and not heard. We were molded to be obedient and accepting citizens. We mostly have ignored what was done in our name. Unfortunately, it seems that religion and politics have turned us into spectators. We have been sitting on the sidelines and letting things happen to us or for us. 

Lord knows in these past few months it's been tempting to try to ignore what's going on in the world around us. Whether it's hearing about global warming, the increase of cancer, or the Trump presidency. I'm longingly pining for the days when I didn't watch television, when I didn't follow the news, and when I lived happily in my own little world. Ah, those were the days!

Yet the days of many of us being bystanders, rather than participators, have led us to where we are. This is not said to instill blame or guilt or shame, but rather as an acknowledgement that we have all participated (often by not participating) in creating the reality of where we currently are.

I am reminded of the quote from Martin Niemöller, a Protestant pastor who spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

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I am saddened by this quote, yet also encouraged because of what is currently taking place around us. People are standing up, and speaking out. And interestingly enough, people are speaking up on both sides of the "left and right divide". People are starting to respond to current events... even if some of the responses are perhaps not the ones we would choose.

Yes it is encouraging that people are participating in choosing the direction of their life... Daily life has become more than just shopping, drinking beer or wine, and watching sports. People are starting to care about life outside of their own little bubble.

People are taking a stand on what they believe in. And while some believe in things you may not believe in, yet at least people are speaking out, taking a stand, and making choices. They are no longer being just spectators. They are participating in helping to create what they feel their future should look like.

When I Grow Up...

A quote came to mind:

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." -- Corinthians 13, King James Version (KJV)

And perhaps this is where we are now. We are moving away from living like children whose needs are taken care of by a (usually) benevolent parent, in this case our employers, our social agencies and educational system, our government. We are becoming aware adults and making our own choices based on our own preferences, our own visions and dreams. We dream of a better world.

The new president, however you may feel about him, touched a chord with people with his "Make America Great Again" slogan. He stirred the recognition that things need to be different than they are, good or bad. He gave people permission to speak up about the things they didn't like, about what they felt was wrong. and what they felt was needed. Many of us do not agree with the conclusions that some people came to, but regardless, there was a seed planted of "hey, something isn't right and I want to do something about it".

The Catalyst for Change

Everything happens for a reason, and I believe it all leads to good. While, I had difficulty seeing how that could be after the election of Donald Trump, I am starting to see that this too is part of the greater good. Just think of a scientific experiment (or a recipe if you prefer) where you have all these ingredients laying out on the table. Only after the ingredients are mixed together and heat is applied does something actually start to happen... and then you get results.

This new president may be the flame to our human experiment. He is a catalyst that is causing things to happen. Just think of all the demonstrations, all the protests, all the discussions, all the "standing up" and the resistance that is now taking place.

Mayors are standing up for the immigrants in their cities and saying they will not deport them. Employees of government agencies are rebelling against the status quo and tweeting out information that was restricted or deleted from the agencies' websites. Religious leaders are taking the side of the people and not the corporations. Even other countries are stepping up for those the US threatens to abandon and leave behind.

We the people are waking up. No longer are we willing to be like Stepford wives, husbands and children, going about our lives like automated robots who never question authority. We are starting to question what we do want, and also acknowledge what we don't want. 

Apparently we needed to get a fire started under us, as sometimes it takes a crisis to get us to act. And a crisis we have got... a crisis which includes rising oceans, resurfacing racism, and economic inequality.

Yet in our awakening, we need to be guided by love and inclusion in our words and actions. We do not need to place an accent on our differences, but rather focus on our similarities. Everyone desires, for themselves and their children, a good life, health, and a world where they feel safe and secure. Our understanding of what that looks like or how to get there may differ, but we must start by seeing our similarities so we can work towards attaining that better world.

All Together Now

A sentiment from Abraham Lincoln's First Inaugural Address comes to mind:

"We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." 

And yet perhaps an important tenet lies in a less quoted sentence of his inaugural address in the paragraph that precedes the above:

"In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors."

And so it is. In our hands are the choices of where we go from here and how we get there. Some call for outright revolution, others for resistance, and others for participation in our governments both local and federal. But in whichever way(s) we choose to act, we must remain in touch with the better angels of our nature.

The Women's March this weekend (January 21st, 2017) was inspiring. One friend who walked in San Francisco wrote to me in an email: "it was amazing....especially how loving and positive the vibe was!"

People joined together regardless of race, religion, sexual preference, in a united front of protecting people's rights: the right to choose the world we leave for our children, the right to choose how we live our life, the right to choose love over hate, peace over war, health over illness, and sharing over greed.

The women's marches were inspiring not just because of their numbers, but because of the solidarity between men, women and children, between races and religions, and between countries. The marches were peaceful. There was no violence, no arrests, no group standing out as more important or more relevant than another group, no competition and aggression. It was a joining together for a common goal of the greater good.

Wake Up, Stand Up For Your Rights

In the words of Bob Marley:

So now we see the light (What you gonna do?),
We gonna stand up for our rights! (Yeah, yeah, yeah!)

We have been sleep-walking, caught up in the Puritan work ethic, believing we have to struggle now to earn "heaven". We can start to ask ourselves who benefits from our actions or inaction. Are our actions for the benefit of the many or just the few?

In North America, Europe, and perhaps in other rich countries, we have lived mostly for our own benefit.  And in so doing we have not adequately helped others less fortunate. Perhaps before we take any action, we can ask ourselves how we can help others and what is the most loving choice.

Once we start taking the most loving actions, whether it be towards our neighbor or our planet, then we will be walking the path of our better nature.

Article Inspiration

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Inquiry Card mentioned in this article: What's the most loving choice?

About The Author

Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.

Creative Commons 3.0: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License. Attribute the author: Marie T. Russell, Link back to the article: This article originally appeared on


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