Underlying all human rights is a deep respect for human life. There are those passionate people whose daily lives center around defending and upholding these precious rights so that we can all live in a more caring and just world. Each one of us can take inspiration from this and make choices that demonstrate how our own personal values uphold human rights. But here is the crunch, it is not easy – it takes bravery, courage and resilience to stand up for yourself and others.
Sometimes just going with the flow seems much easier than speaking up for what you believe is right. Yet, in a way, this is ‘giving-up’ on human rights. Becoming brave, courageous and resilient is a process of taking action, learning and acting again and again.
Experience being a supporter. When you see someone else stand up, stand with them! This will empower them and yourself.
Find role models in your everyday life
Check out the people around you and identify those who are the most respected – not a respect built on fear, but rather a respect of genuine high esteem for the goodness of the person. Identify what they do and say that makes people want to be with them – the way they listen to people, give them feedback, encourage them and disagree with them. Observe and you will probably see that, when people interact with them, they feel seen, heard and respected even when they don’t agree. You have found your role models!
Find your triggers
Make a note of all the times you feel disturbed by some injustice. Then take some quiet time to explore exactly what was worrying you. Often, when we want to avoid conflict, we push these feelings and thoughts aside so that we do not have to deal with them. Understandable, as they can be overwhelming.
Clearly identify exactly what the issue is you want to focus on. Being clear will enable you to confidently explain your concerns. Harness your emotions as the driving force for the courage to speak out, to work for the change you desire. In this way, a real discussion for change can begin with respect on both sides. If you lead with emotion, anger, indignation and self-righteousness, you are likely to be met with defense, resistance and conflict. Nothing changes, and at worst, the unacceptable behaviour or attitude is entrenched. Think back to your role models; what can you learn from them about this?
As you start speaking up, you will meet resistance and maybe even be attacked. This is where you will need to call on your resilience, which is a powerful quality that takes time to build. So, when someone attacks, wait and be still. Hear them out, really listen to them – the logic of their argument and the emotion behind it. Then from this calm, still, resilient place you will be able to choose how to respond, instead of being triggered by the emotions of the attack. As you find your way to respectfully respond, acknowledging the emotions and the argument, you will be able to keep yourself on track in achieving the change you desire.
Standing up for what you believe in is right and good and just; it will not only enrich your life, but your brave voice will also uplift others, give them hope and inspire them to stand strong.
- American Psychological Association (APA)
- Everyday Health
- FET Phase Business Studies
- South African Parliament