Your words are weapons…be careful how you use them.

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.

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3 Comments

Filed under bullying, This is important.

3 responses to “Your words are weapons…be careful how you use them.

  1. Steve

    Bullying is a problem everywhere. I realize it has been addressed in the schools lately, with a “zero tolerance” philosophy being adopted by schools. In my own experiences as a parent, I’ve found that a lot of the time the so-called intolerance toward bullying is nothing more than a fear by adults that their conduct during and after bullying incidents will be seen by others as inadequate. I know of situations where my own kids have witnessed bullying, and have seen their teachers ignore it. I wonder if they believe that since no one else sees it, they can simply let it go.
    I grew up in Reading, Massachusetts, which is a medium-sized town about 15 miles north of Boston. The people in town all knew when to say the right things and when to condemn injustices, and they knew how their actions would be viewed by the community at large. But the reality was different from the faces presented to the public.
    I witnessed bullying in this town by my peers. I was not raised to think this way, and spoke against it, stopping it at times. I don’t think I had much of an effect on the minds of people who build themselves up by making others miserable, they were a product of their upbringing, and changing that takes more than my own actions at the time. I do recall feeling shame when I didn’t speak out; I was betraying myself and my parents ( the two people who raised me would not tolerate bullying in any form, and said so without reservation).
    The biggest problem is that bullying is accepted by the small group of people who practice it. There needs to be dissention in the ranks; another point of view, and it needs to happen more often. How we raise our children will have the most significant effect on this. Peer pressure encourages bullying, peer pressure will be it’s most effective weapon.
    The bullying frame of mind takes other forms. There was a Boston Celtics basketball star in the 60’s who bought a home in Reading. Bill Russell was a hero to local pro basketball fans. But when he decided to move to my town there were petitions circulated to try to prevent him from moving into town, for no other reason than his race. Bullying, racial bigotry, intolerance towards others because of religion or sexual preferences; these are all related.
    We are improving, Cindy. It’s a slow process, but if you look at the difference from one generation to the next rather than one year to the next, you’ll see progress. At least it’s a forward movement.
    There’s something that occurred to me as I wrote this. When I remember the attempts at degradation and ridicule of other people that I witnessed in my youth, I still feel shame for the times when I was silent. I guess a good upbringing lasts a lifetime.
    Steve

  2. Unfortunately, in France, there is an enormous step backward of the mentalities. I am shocked by the prudery of 20-30 years. ” La Manif pour tous ” is a sad example. The shame to be French. But it is necessary to stand firm, to denounce(cancel) ceaselessly any act of intimidation, to remain watchful, even if it is difficult sometimes and even if we have the impression that it’s useless. It is necessary to think of the future generations.

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