8th Deadly Sin?

The Seven Deadly Sins in Christian belief are a list of seven rebellious tendencies that afflict humanity. They are wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.

If I could add an 8th deadly sin to the list, what would it be?

This is easy for me. Don’t be a bystander. See something; say something. Or do something. People who are bystanders think they play a neutral role though they rarely do. Silence/inaction often implies acceptance or support of the situation to those around them as well as to the offender and the offended.

What is the bystander effect?

This term refers to the phenomenon in which the greater the number of people present, the less likely they are to offer help a person in trouble. Social psychologists and researchers Bibb Latane and John Darley found that the there are two possible causes for this behavior.

  1. Diffusion of responsibility: Someone else will take care of this.
  2. Ambiguity of situation: People are unsure if there is a problem.
  3. Social influence: People in the group monitor those around them to determine how to act.

Latane and Darley’s research was conducted following the Kitty Genovese murder that took place in New York City in 1964. Genovese was stabbed to death three times outside of her apartment while people who observed the crime did not offer assistance or contact the police.

My own personal experience with the bystander effect occurred a few years ago in a crowded mall at the food court. I left my 15 and 12 year old daughters at our table while I ran to the restroom. When I returned, I was alarmed to see that my older daughter was being verbally assaulted by a scary looking male ruffian. His obscenity laced diatribe could be heard by all those seated around our table, yet no one intervened. I shooed him away and was able to get security to grab him, but my real anger was directed at the moms and dads seated all around us who watched this and did nothing. My younger daughter told me later that she made eye contact with a dad seated across from her and was using her eyes to “plead” with him to help them. A random mom came up to us later to ask if the girls were ok and I asked her why no one would help. She replied that maybe people thought it was my daughter’s boyfriend and was a lover’s quarrel? Classic bystander effect.

Here is a list of Ten Notorious Cases of the Bystander Effect.

Bullying and Bystanders at School:

Schools are now teaching students not only about bullying, but also about being a bystander. One of the strategies being used is teaching students how to be an active bystander. Students are encouraged to either intervene or get help for the person being bullied.

Hurtful Bystanders May:

  1. Instigate the bullying, but may not be the bully. This person gets the ball rolling.
  2. Support the bullying by laughing, cheering, mocking or commenting.
  3. Join in once the bullying has been initiated.
  4. Passively accept the bullying by doing nothing. Most bystanders fall into this category. Their silent acceptance and audience provides encouragement for the bully to continue.

 Active Bystanders May:

  1. Intervene directly by standing up to the bully or stopping the bullying.
  2. Get help.
  3. Offer help. This can range from t sitting with the bullied student at lunch to gathering support from peers.

Here’s a great source full of information about active bystander strategies.

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25 thoughts on “8th Deadly Sin?

  1. You read about it, preach it to our own kids, and teach it to our students, but what if it happens to you? I’m so sad it happened to your girls but I’m even more sad that no one intervened. We watched a couple of episodes of the TV show “What Would You Do”. My kids say the right thing and know what to do…but would they do it? I can only hope that constant reminders will negate the bystander effect. *Fingers crossed* but they still wear flip-flops while riding their bikes…so…

    • Ha ha…my kids wear flip flops when riding bikes too. And helmets? Messes up their hair so forget about it! I love “What Would You Do” and we enjoy watching it together. I think that is a great way to practice thinking of what you might do in those situations. The bystander effect seems to be very powerful.

      • It’s concerning because the opposite end of that spectrum is mob mentality (or peer pressure). How did we ever make it? I don’t remember my mom talking about any of this stuff.

  2. Reblogged this on Musings&Rants and commented:
    I just read this blog and was struck by it, because I’ve often thought in a crisis that I’m witnessing would I help and intervene? Or just stand by and say how horrible it is to see something like that. So far I haven’t been tested in this area yet. But after reading this wonderful post by greatsnaps, goodtimes and me, I have to say this is something for us all to faced with and to think about. What a great challenge, to not be this kind of person!!! This post was so good by the way I started following her blog.

    • I know! I was truly shocked by everyone’s behavior and always wish that I’d taken the time to let them know how I felt. At the time I just wanted to get my girls out of there.

  3. Don’t get involved. It may require some effort. Used to be that if you misbehaved, anyone would correct you and then tell your parents. Now they just talk about the problems that kids have because they don’t have good parenting but they don’t stand in as role models either. Great Post!

  4. This is such a fascinating phenomenon. I studied a lot of this behavior in my psychology courses in college. Human behavior is so interesting to study. It’s so unbelievable the things we can be capable of doing in a crowd that we would never do on our own. Very interesting reminder! I would have been mad at the crowd at the mall as well!

    • Yes, I was furious with them. I wanted to tell them all off, but I really just needed to get the girls out of there. I was truly stunned that no one stood up to intervene. Thanks for your comments. 🙂

  5. I think that is a very good candidate for #8. Given how prevalent bullying has become over the years, this is something that people really need to quit doing! How scary for your girls- especially with people nearby doing nothing.

  6. So well said Adrienne. I totally agree. I am always offering help whether it’s locating the right room at our Centre., to take a photo of people together etc … might be a country thing maybe but it does infuriate me when people just stand by. Great post on a very relevant topic in today’s society!

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  9. A bright light on a huge problem. It’s been written of before in some of the international news I read and there have been lots of on-the-street scenarios enacted as experiments to prove this bystander effect is real. It is a sad commentary on what society has become.

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