There are very few adults who have grown up without experiencing bullying in some form. In fact, for many it was a rite of passage of sorts, an experience that our parents told us to toughen up and deal with.
For me it was more than a rite of passage but a part of life that was excruciating. Simply imagine being a poor, skinny, minority intuitive—a very, very different youngster—during the desegregation period in the rural South.
Somehow I survived. Yet there were the days when I did not care to live through it. Life was different then. There were no computers, no texting, e-mails, cell phones or videos to continue the agony of being bullied.
In today’s cyber world, the bullying doesn’t end when school’s out. It continues and continues. The fact is that today, bullying is an experience that takes many forms, from cyber bullying to domestic violence. It has made the headlines with cases of adolescents so bullied that they think their only solution is suicide, such as in the case of Phoebe Prince, the 15-year-old who committed suicide last year after being horribly bullied by other teenage girls.
The Pew Institute in a 2007 survey revealed that at least 32 percent of teenagers had experienced some form of cyber bullying. This tells us that the problem of bullying that we have assumed we must all go through should be re-examined by society.
Our young people are not simply dying physically but also emotionally and spiritually.
What Makes a Bully?
Why people choose to bully others is a complex affair. It could be that they are abuse victims themselves or have anger management issues or overly authoritarian perspectives.
The abusive rhetoric hurled in the political arena and media could play a part, or maybe the degradation of others that is sometimes displayed in some popular music or on reality shows. The factors are too many to examine here.
When I grew up in the South, we lived in near a farm and wooded area. For some reason, people who wanted to get rid of their dogs would abandon them on the roads near our home. Perhaps they thought the dogs would revert back to their wolf-like roots and learn to hunt and scavenge for their food. Of course, they did not. Inevitably the animals ended up at our house.
One of the things I noticed with the dogs was that when one was injured and shrieking in pain from a bee sting or hurt paw, all the other dogs would pounce on the hurt one and beat it up. I saw that over and over again and wondered why the animals would do that.
In my life I have seen humans react that way to others. The vulnerable one is only going to get a "licking." The scapegoat at the water cooler is going to get heaped on more. In spirituality, we know that we are all connected and able to pick up on some subtle level the state of being of others around us.
Perhaps for some, the pain or fear experienced by another stirs those same feelings within them. Many people, just like the animals, do not like seeing or feeling the pain or vulnerability of others. Perhaps it makes the observer seem weak, which may cause fear.
Fear Is at the Root of the Matter
We know that fear causes many of our social problems, as well as emotional, and physical issues. It is the root of prejudice and intolerance. Maybe it is time that we examine our core and allay the fears that separate us. Our children need us to notice what is happening.
Parent or other relatives should look for the signs of bullying. If you are a bystander of bullying, tell someone. If you are being bullied, please know that you are not alone. Talk to someone.
There are people who care. Your life is important. Resources include stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/index.html.
1 reuters.com/article/2011/05/05/us-bullying-massachusetts-prince-idUSTRE74474F20110505?feedType=RSS&sp=true 2 Lenhart, Amanda. Cyberbullying 2010: What the Research Tells Us. Pew Internet, Youth Online Safety Working Group, June 6, 2007 and May 6, 2010, pewinternet.org/Presentations/2010/May/Cyberbullying-2010.aspx, accessed on May 5, 2011.