When to Stand Up for What You Believe In: A Practical Guide

Stand up for what you believe in

We all know people who are very adamant (and vocal) about sharing their beliefs.  These individuals are not shy to stand up for what they believe in. They have Facebook feeds full of pointed articles, status updates, and pictures that support specific causes.  Whenever you meet them in person, topics generally go straight to those causes, and if you are even remotely argumentative, you will spend the evening having a debate. 

The world needs these types of people with strong belief systems standing up for what they believe in, fighting inertia and the status quo in the hopes of making an impact.  I applaud their efforts when I agree that their causes are ones worth fighting for.

I am, however, not one of these people.

I am a more moderate person by nature.  Although I love a good structured debate, life is seldom structured.  I hate hurting other people’s feelings, so unless I know a person really well, I tend to keep the topics more conversational than confrontational.  It’s not that I don’t believe in causes.  It’s more that it emotionally taxes me to argue with people, so I need to know that the benefit of arguing is worth the stress it will put on me.

If you find yourself in the same boat, here are a few rules of thumb that I follow before I engage in a cause.  In these situations, it has always been worth the effort to take a stand, even if it took me out of my comfort zone:

1. When you can set an example.

The best way to stand up for a belief is to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.  If you really believe in something, then don’t just argue, do something about it.  Attend fundraisers for awareness, get involved locally, and get yourself out there.  The bonus here is if you’re willing to put in the extra effort, then you know it really means something to you.

2. When the other person is on the fence about an issue.

If you have a strong opinion about something, and you know the other person is waffling, you have a real chance to make an impact on their decision.  The trick here is not to be too pushy.  We’ve all been on the receiving end of unwanted advice.  Try to always be supportive of the other person, not just trying to push an agenda.

3. When you know the other party will be respectful, even if they disagree.

Although controversial topics can bring out the absolute worst in people (e.g. name calling, insults, hurtful words), some people are just better at being able to focus on the issue and not make it personal.  I almost always enjoy talking with these kinds of people, even if we will never agree.  I get some unique perspectives as to why they believe differently than I do, and although that may not change my stance, it’s powerful to empathize and learn the motivations of others.

4. When you know you’ll feel guilty if you stay silent.

I make many of my decisions by the “regret rule” – if I know I’ll regret it tomorrow, then I should do something about it today.  Even if it puts you in a stressful situation today, you will live much longer with the regret that you could have done something about it (or at least called out others on their behavior).

5. When you’ve reached the point of “enough is enough.”

We all believe in lots of causes, but some causes rankle us more than others. I find that if I’m upset for several days and can’t stop thinking about an issue, then I’ve reached the point of “enough is enough.”  Then it’s definitely worth my emotional time to argue for a cause, even with complete strangers.  Standing up for that cause eases the tension and makes me feel I’m not being complicit by remaining silent.

What are your examples of standing up for what you believe in? I’d love to hear from you.

17 thoughts on “When to Stand Up for What You Believe In: A Practical Guide”

  1. Unusual and interesting article. My comment is not so much about what to stand up for, but about how to do it. Always, and especially in these kinds of potentially argumentative conversations, it’s best to “own” your opinions. Merely start your spiel with “In my opinion. . . “. This might help keep you less stressed by preventing confrontative situations. And then you can more easily pursue being heard instead of balking when it comes to expressing yourself.

    1. That’s a great piece of advice. It sets the tone and allows others to feel that they can also have an opinion, encouraging discussion rather than drawing lines and picking sides.

    2. Great comment, Don. I agree with you about stating that our opinions are just that – our opinions – not necessarily the hard and fast truth – because goodness knows there are always several sides to every issue.

      Julia Kristina

    3. I tend to like to ask questions to find out why people feel strongly about certain things. I find that once they have been heard and acknowledged they are much more open to hearing my perspective on an issue.

      I also like to preface my statements with “From my experience…” or “From what I’ve learned…”

      Thanks for this article Deborah!

      Julia Kristina

      1. That’s also a great piece of advice, Julia, not only from a persuasive standpoint, but also because you may learn something interesting and new from someone else that might change your mind. It’s always good to consider other facets to an argument.

    4. I tend to like to ask questions to find out why people feel strongly about certain things. I find that once they have been heard and acknowledged they are much more open to hearing my perspective on an issue.
      I also like to preface my statements with “From my experience…” or “From what I’ve learned…”
      Thanks for this article Deborah!

      Julia Kristina

  2. Hello Deborah,

    Lovely article – thank you.
    I think we are much alike and therefore I am delighted to agree with your advice.
    I come from a family with issues of Borderline Personality Disorders which is very discouraging of open debates and discussions – bit like tip toeing on eggshells or even through a mine-field.
    Come to think of it, had there have been such things locally when I was growing up, I would have liked to have joined a debating society where the expression of different views was not just allowed but encouraged – such practises would also encourage the flow of conversations.
    Anyway, I won’t witter on, but just thank you and wish you well.
    Kindest regards.

    1. Glad to hear that the article resonated with you. I had the wonderful opportunity of joining a debate club in high school, and it was a great experience. It would be fun to join something similar as an adult. I do enjoy conversation on serious topics, even if all parties do not agree, but finding the right people to talk to that won’t get offended can be difficult. Best of luck to you!

  3. Great article Deborah, some really important points!

    I especially like “The best way to stand up for a belief is to walk the walk, not just talk the talk”.

    I work with people to help them form healthy habits, and one thing I always come back to is that ideas without action are just ideas. It’s what we do that counts, not what we say we’re gonna do!

    Thanks for sharing!


  4. Awesome article – it’s true that we all need to stand up for our beliefs more!

    Instead of asking when you should stand up for your beliefs, I’d like to turn the question around and ask; when should you NOT stand up for your beliefs? When asked this way, I find it more difficult to come up with reasons not to make a stand for what I believe in.

    1. That’s also not a bad question to ask. It sounds like for you, you are very comfortable standing out for what you believe in. That is not always the case for me. I can get over-involved in a debate to the point where I waste hours arguing, and in the end, nothing changes (other than I then go home and relive the whole debate with my husband). I find that picking and choosing my battles helps me balance standing up for good causes, but also not feeling that one certain cause (or one certain argument with a particular person) is bleeding over into other areas of my life.

  5. Hello Deborah!
    This post hit a chord with me today. I attempt to be careful about what I post and share on Social Media for many reasons.

    When I do feel compelled to post something that takes a very strong stand, I have one relative (totally opposing views to me on almost everything) who feels he must make a comment. No matter how conciliatory I attempt to be in my response (I have my views-you have yours), he always has a rebuttal. Sad, but I’ve now hidden him from my feed.

    Thanks for showing real life ways to show your beliefs.

    1. I’m glad this article was helpful for you, Donna. Balancing beliefs in social media is a very personal journey. I come from a very conservative part of our country, but now live in a very liberal area. I consider myself a moderate, but know people all along the political spectrum. It can feel intimidating to always have a friend or relative always interject with a particular opinion. You have to do what you feel is best to make social media work for you.

  6. Deborah, great points. I do find myself torn at times to speak up about certain situations that I don’t agree it, not due to fear or ridicule, but like you mentioned, exerting the my precious energy to the point of an endless debate. I find myself making specific selections as when to speak up and simply keep quiet based on much of what you stated.

    Great advice to keep us opinionated folks on the right track. :)
    Thanks, Hank

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