Participants and Bystanders

Kyle Reed // @kylereed

In 2005 I spent the summer in Joplin MO on an internship with a summer teen conference. I lived on a college campus and shared a room with a guy I knew from college. I remember specifically one day a discussion we had about a book he was reading. The book was called the Perks of Being a Wallflower. As I sat there listening to him describe the book and what it was about the only thing I heard was how great it was to sit on the sidelines and watch. I remember going to bed that night feeling sad about the idea of sitting back and watching. I felt like I was being called to be a bystander and not a participant.

This past week I have been reminded of what it means to be a bystander and a participant. I was reminded of the results and outcome of both.

As a bystander I sat and watched
As a participant I moved and acted

As a bystander I become bitter and regretful
As a participant I was happy and energized

As a bystander I missed out on opportunities
As a participant I created opportunities

As I start a new week I am constantly reminding myself to be a participant and not a bystander. But can I be honest with you, it is so much easier for me to be a bystander. To sit back, let things pass, and want others to come to me. Its easy for me to expect others to notice me, to serve me, to take care of me. Maybe its the deep desire to be known, but its easy for me to sit in the corner and feel sorry for myself.

But every night I am reminded of what it is like to be a bystander. It is a life filled with regret and missed chances. Because just as much as I want to be a bystander I desire to be a participant. Maybe it is because I am afraid of the consequences of missing out, but I think the biggest reason is that I want to be apart of life rather then letting life pass me by.

Sometimes its easy to hit the snooze button on life and never wake up, but today I choose to participate eyes wide open ready to see whats next.

Do you struggle with being a Participant or a Bystander?


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Kyle Reed

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I create websites, conversations, and ideas. Advocate for the 20 somethings. Looking to connect everyone to a mentor. Married to my best friend, Ginny. I like my coffee black and my dog Jack. I currently live in Nashville and work at Sony Music/Provident in Nashville
  • Michael

    I do. I so desperately want to be a participant, but sometimes I get scared and don’t take the initiative.

    I think as a competitor and as a person who wants to help initiate change and make a difference, it’s clutch to be a participant.

    • Dustin

      Encouraging stuff. I’m with Michael on this one. “I so desperately want to be a participant, but sometimes I get scared and don’t take the initiative.”

    • Kyle Reed

      which if you both are like me, the regret is enough to make you a participant. I hate living with the “what ifs” that has pushed me forward to be a participant.

  • Patrick Mitchell

    Man I think that last couplet reveals the biggest difference for me on this issue: missing opportunities vs. creating opportunities. It is SO easy to sit and wait for the “right” thing or the “perfect” circumstance to come along. But I’ve yet to have that happen–weird, huh? Donald Miller’s been writing about that a lot lately, and you’ve hit on it again. Maybe someone’s trying to tell me something.

    • Kyle Reed

      i think someone is trying to tell us all something :)
      I guess really there is no perfect opportunities, but it doesn’t mean that opportunities cannot become perfect or something like that

  • Jason Vana

    “But can I be honest with you, it is so much easier for me to be a bystander.”

    The same is true for me. I definitely have a deep longing and passion to be a participant and, in some cases I really am one. But It is much easier for me to sit back, let things pass and make excuses for why I’m not participating.

    Thanks for the transparency and reminder to be a participant!

    • Kyle Reed

      yes, and the amount of work you put into making excuses is enough to force you to be a participant.

  • Mindy

    I struggle with being a participant. And often need to “force” myself to be participatory, which I never regret.

    In leadership/group roles, I do think that those who are always participants could benefit from being bystanders, especially if that means allowing other bystanders an opportunity to develop leadership or communication skills. Or even to simply give them a chance to be heard. Although, I suppose it could be argued that even in this, they are participants, just of a different nature.

    • Kyle Reed

      exactly, that is important to remember. Just because you are quiet does not mean you are not participating. Great reminder

  • Jo_of_TSN

    (FYI the last question shows up as a broken link on the news feed.)

    It’s too easy being a bystander. It’s the result of the law of inertia, if you will. An object at rest stays at rest. (And because of the friction in our lives and relationships, and the difficulties that pop up along the way, an object in motion just might come to rest as well.)

    I will find myself blaming the friction or the relationships or the difficulties, but at the end of the day, it’s all on me.

    If I really believe that I’m created to do good works which God has prepared in advance for me to do, though, it looks like it’s time to get crackin’.

    • Kyle Reed

      great thoughts. You are absolutely correct, relationships are messy and involve a lot of work. But ultimately they fall back on the individual to be a participant.

  • Tyler

    I think the hard part of working full time is that it often forces participating (which is great), but I tend to revert to bystander in so many other areas of life because I’m so done with participation after work takes most of my energy.

    • Kyle Reed

      almost like you are being paid full time to be a participant but in your spare time you are resting.
      I wonder if there is a way to be a participant and still get rest?