Stand for Something!

by Nate Nicholls · 8 comments

Defense has never won anything.

Standing against has never progressed a movement.  It never will.  Not directly, anyway.

Standing against is en vogue, though.  Everyone likes to stand against something.  I think it makes us feel plugged in and compassionate.  It’s also really easy to do.  Maybe that’s why so many people stand against things: It’s easy and makes us feel good.  But, standing against is the lowest common denominator of charity and action.

We stand against world poverty.  We stand against liberalism or conservatism.  We stand against communism.  We stand against human rights violators.  We stand against corporate greed.  We stand against injustice.  We stand against violence.  We stand against domestic abuse.  We stand against world hunger.  We stand against AIDS.  We stand against war.  We stand against.  Against, against, against.

The problem with standing against, though, is that you are defined by the things you hate.  Standing against is a negative identification.  You are defining yourself by what you are not.  That’s a definition of negative space!

When you stand against something, you take your queues from it.  It becomes a dance, and the thing you oppose is the leader.  You simply follow, responding to it step-by-step.

When you stand for something, however, the story is altogether different.  When you stand for something, you set the tone, you lead the dance.

When you stand for something, you create the parameters.  Instead of being a negative space, defined by the opposition, you fill in your own boundaries.

Standing against is the stance of politicians.  They stand against this injustice or that tax.  They stand with so-and-so in opposition to X.  Rarely do they stand for something.  Why?  Because to stand for something is to stick your neck out.  Standing for something is to take aim at a goal and say, “That’s where we’re headed…anything that gets in our way will be destroyed.”  It takes initiative and heart.  It’s gutsy.  It’s bold.  It’s rare.

But, it’s needed.

What do you stand for?  Honestly, I don’t care to know what you don’t like or what you stand against.  I want to know your substance.  What do you stand for?

Photo by Lonely black cat.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Ray March 14, 2011 at 3:58 am

Good posting, Nate.


Nate March 14, 2011 at 7:54 am



Mom March 14, 2011 at 10:31 am

Great point, Nate! You inspired me and I’m taking yet another look at what I stand for and how I can do that in a positive constructive way!


Nate March 14, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Awesome! I’m glad you’re inspired. One of the things I stand for is inspiring people to do more, be better. It’s a compliment to me to hear that you’re re-evaluating things. Thanks for the encouragement!


Danny G March 15, 2011 at 3:51 pm

I stand against this post. Just kidding! It’s something I have noticed for a long time, but it was good to have been made to think about it again. We do have to be re-active in this world as it is more of a “when” world than an “if” one (as in, “it is not if bad things will happen, but when”). Bad things will happen (poverty, drugs, greed, etc.) and we should react (which makes us “against” in a way), but we do need to remember that it is not re-action that makes the biggest changes things in the world but pro-action! And knowing that this is a “when” world we should be encouraged to be pro-active in a positive way, defining ourselves by what we are for instead of just hoping the bad things won’t happen and waiting to respond against them.


Nate March 15, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Thanks, Danny! I agree.

I like what you said: “defining ourselves by what we are for instead of hoping the bad things won’t happen….” When you stand for something, you imply your opposition to whatever hinders your goal. But the focus is on the goal, not the opposition. It’s an important distinction.

Good stuff. Thanks for commenting, Danny. It’s nice to see you on here.


Hannahlee March 17, 2011 at 8:37 am

Wholeheartedly agree. Though often times the act of actively standing against something proves what you stand for. Last night I had a similar conversation with my dad and another gentleman in his 50s. When talking to them, it always seems to boil down to the inactivity of this generation compared to theirs. As in, they knew how to band together and stand for something (or, rather, against something. Namely, Vietnam.) But I sometimes feel like there are too many things to stand for now. How do we band together on one issue? At times it can feel like standing for something is a futile practice, no?

But I do stand for things. And I know that one or two people can change a process – look at the two girlscouts who are working (and succeeding) at getting rainforest-ruining palm oil out of the cookies they sell…


Nate March 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Hi, Hannahlee! Thanks for the input. I agree that there are times when you will have to fight something you are opposed to. The point I was trying to make in this post is that there is a different attitude with a stand for something. Like I mentioned to someone the other day, when you stand against something (i.e., focus on what you oppose), you stand around waiting for orders once the fight is over. However, when you stand for something (i.e., focus on where you’re headed), you know what to do when the battle is over: You keep marching forward!

I think your example of the Vietnam War protests is a great example of that. Certainly the protestors found a way to band together, but their stand quickly became a stand against and ultimately turned quite ugly. I would argue that it ultimately didn’t do much good. But the hippie movement was started as a promotion of love and peace. Things boomed. It was an incredible phenomenon. I believe it was the stand for something, the hope of a new direction, that brought people together. If you’ll notice, things quickly lost momentum after the anti-war movement. (To be fair, I think there were some other factors besides the anti-war movement that brought an end to that era, but my point is that things quit being about the stand FOR something.)

How do we band together in a meaningful way? How do you choose what to stand for, out of a sea of possibilities? How can we motivate ourselves and our peers to take action? You’ve given me some hard questions to chew on. You’ve really got me thinking. Hmmm…Maybe I’ll post more thoughts on this subject, after I’ve given these questions more thought. Thanks again for the comment. Drop me a line if you have any more thoughts on this subject…and to tell me how you’re doing on your goals this year!


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