When I Look Away

Tim Schneider
Leadership Development from Aegis Learning
EduCode 2019 Leadership Track

By Tim Schneider

When I look away, the homeless man is still living under the bridge.

When I look away, my co-worker is still being bullied and harassed.

When I look away, the trash on the ground is still there.

When I look away, the stray dog is still running through my neighborhood,

When I look away, my child is still upset and frustrated with something that happened in school.

When I look away, the lady is still struggling to load her groceries into her car.

When I look away, children still need foster and adopting families in my community.

When I look away, a team member is feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.

Looking away has become a great coping mechanism and where many people find temporary relief.  By not consciously and cognitively acknowledging an issue exists, we find a certain degree of peace and are able to go on about our day and our lives.

The problem with this tactile denial is that it becomes temporary at best and really nothing more than a little Band-Aid to make ourselves feel better for the moment.  To acknowledge the issue causes discomfort.  To actually do something about the issue causes a great deal of discomfort.

The case we will make to get out of denial and into action is going to come in multiple parts.  First, and most tangible, is the personalization of the issue.  What if, and please, would never wish this on anyone, you inserted yourself into any of the above examples?  It was your dog that got loose.  It was you that was being harassed at work.  It was you feeling frustrated at work.  It was you that suffered catastrophic financial loss and you now are without a home.  Would you want someone to notice, and even more, would you want someone to help?  Of course, you would.  I would.  We all would. 

The deeper part of moving from denial into acceptance and then action is about you and your mental and emotional composition.  The regular deniers are harming their mental and emotional health by sweeping issues away and, in some cases, even pretending they don’t exist.  This creates a pretty significant drag on your emotional composition and intelligence by refusing yourself the need to sense and feel the issue.  You cannot experience true happiness and joy without experiencing, or in this case empathizing, the emotional pains. 

Quite bluntly, those that consistently look away will lack the empathy needed to build strong relationships, lead others or operate successfully in any type of team or community environment.  Empathy is the ability to see, feel and sense the emotions of others and looking away, dampens this incredibly important piece of emotional intelligence.

Conversely, when we do acknowledge an issue and then get out of our own way and do something about it, the feeling of satisfaction is tremendous.  This feeling, when regular and replicated will assist you in building confidence, resilience, empathy and open the path of your emotional composition to feel a consistent stream of more positive emotions.  Again bluntly, helpers feel better and are much better people.

A very simple approach to this looking away phenomenon would be:

  1. Acknowledge the Issue Exists

Say it out loud.  Point to it and mentally process it is an issue.

  1. Seek Inspiration

There are loads of sources of inspiring stories, videos and pictures of one person choosing to make a difference and helping the community.

  1. Personalize

Put yourself or a close family member/friend in the narrative.  Instead of a generic stranger, it is now about you or someone you care about deeply.

  1. Craft a Plan

Commit to a course of action to how to commit some time or resources to helping the issue you identified.  Don’t simply react but have a plan.  Planning will also help you curb your fears and nervousness about helping.

  1. Execute and Reflect

Do what you have committed to do and then spend some time reflecting, and even journaling how you feel and the impact of your actions.


Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.  

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