I heard this quote on a TV show today. It was an episode about bullying and it’s something that’s been on my mind lately. There’s this big push these days (and rightly so) to stop bullying in schools and on social media but I’m starting to wonder if the message is getting lost in the chaos.
What is bullying? When I was a kid getting bullied, it was being called names, being surrounded by kids in the playground and pushed to the ground, kicked and hit. It was a constant harassment that left me feeling worthless and alone and it’s something that’s stayed with me my whole life. I never could figure out what it was that made me such a target. Every time I would come up with a reason…I was too fat, too ugly, always the new girl…I would see someone just like me living happy and bully free and it was just one more thing that added to the pain.
What does bullying mean now? I think I’m a little confused. I’m sure it still includes the things that used to happen, but there seems to be so much more to it. With the advent and rampant use of social media, there’s so many more ways that people can make your life miserable and it scares me because keeping track of all the stuff my daughter is into is sometimes a daunting task.
But I wonder if somehow the bullying rally cry has caused some people to be confused about what it really is, especially with teenagers. There seems to be this thing where “I’m telling people you’re bullying me” becomes a threat in itself. If your friend doesn’t always agree with you, that’s not bullying. If they have a bad day and get snappy or sarcastic with you, that’s not bullying. If they hang out with someone else when you wanted to be hanging with them, that’s not bullying.
If they are hitting you, tormenting you, calling you names, making your life miserable, that’s bullying. It can be a one time occurrence or an ongoing campaign of pain and violence. It has consequences that bullies sometimes can’t even imagine…horrific consequences that send out never-ending ripples of pain and heartache.
Calling someone a bully is a big thing. It can rip apart their life and haunt them for a long time. If they truly are being a bully, then they deserve the scrutiny. But if you’re mad at them for not doing or being what you want and then accuse them of being a bully? Then the bully in that situation is you. And by accusing people of bullying when they really aren’t, you’re cheapening the word and lessening it’s impact. And that hurts the people who really are being tormented because it makes people pay less attention when they should be paying more.
Words can be weapons…I’ve never heard a truer statement. They can tear lives apart and destroy someone’s happiness and peace of mind.
But they can be healing too. Forgiveness and understanding can go a long way in fixing a relationship with a friend. Knowing that sometimes people say hurtful things without meaning to on a bad day. Stop and think about the person who hurt your feelings and the relationship you’ve had with them. If their hurtful actions are out of character for them, if they’re usually good and kind and someone you count on to be there for you, then maybe talk to them, see what’s going on with them and maybe you can make both of you feel better.
Maybe it’s time we all stop and think about the words that we use. Because a weapon’s only use is violence and violence, in any connotation just destroys things.