Friday, April 20, 2012

"Be buddies, not bullies."

Last weekend, a young man in my home state took his own life after he was allegedly bullied for being gay.

Tragedies like this are not unusual lately. In fact, in my opinion, they're far too common.  Despite their frequency, they're no easier to hear about.  And this case is especially poignant to me because this young man lived just an hour from me.  It hits too close to home.

I wish there was a way to adequately comfort and save these young people.  I'd love to tell them "it gets better," but I haven't decided if I believe it myself.

Bullying is nothing new. I don't know many people who haven't experienced it at some point in their life.  But I think we've passed the point where we need to start wondering why we accept this as a "rite of passage." I've heard several people say kids are taking bullying too seriously and that "kids will be kids."


Why do we accept this?

You might be saying, "we don't."  But that's a lie. If we didn't accept it, it wouldn't be happening.

No parent wants to consider the fact that their child may be a bully.  But it might be time for parents to start really listening to the way children speak about others in their class or school.

I'm also wondering where kids learn to be bullies.  I suspect it starts at home.  Maybe parents aren't actively coaching their kids on insults and teasing, but I do wonder if kids are exhibiting behavior they witness at home in some form.

I don't know the answers.  But I sure wish I did. 

I was bullied for most of my school years. I don't recall too many days from 5th grade through 8th grade when I didn't go home from school in tears.  I was picked on about my hair, my clothes, the fact that I wore glasses and for simply not being one of the popular girls. It never got bad enough for me to consider suicide as a viable out, but there were many days when I wondered if anyone would miss me if I did happen to die. 

I got a little tougher in high school, although I still dealt with plenty of teasing.  It was usually related to whatever boy I liked at that given moment, and, at the time, I guess I felt like I deserved it.  Why should I believe that boy would like me?  What a horrible person I was, embarrassing guy after guy by bestowing my affections upon him.  What was I thinking?  Why did I do that to them?

And let me say that I'm really glad the Internet, facebook and Twitter didn't exist back then. I'm certain the bullying would have been worse.

I was grateful to get to college where bullying seemed to take a hiatus -- with the exception of that time I wrote a satiric column and received hateful comments about my looks in response.

I've experienced more bullying since entering the professional world. I've had a supervisor berate me about my weight and tell me I was a miserable person to be around. As bad as that was, the worst adult bullying experience has come at the hands of people I believed were friends.  They used things I told them in confidence to make fun of me.  They told me I was ugly, fat, unstable, crazy and self-loathing.

I admit, I'm an easy target.  I'm very sensitive and very trusting. I categorize people as friends before they really earn the title, and I often put too much trust in them as well. This has come back to bite me. Too many times.  I've had my heart broken and my trust in people shaken. And because of bullies, I almost lost all enjoyment of a few of my favorite things in the world.

This is why I have a hard time telling young people that "it gets better."

Bullies never go away, and they never grow up ... they just get older.

I'm older now and experienced enough to walk away from my tormenters.  But I know they will never go away. They will almost certainly still hurt me, but I've learned how to make sure they don't destroy me.

Young people don't have that knowledge. That's why they're dying at their own hands.

It's terrible.

And it has to stop.

The video below was recorded by the sister of the young man I mentioned at the beginning of this post.  I know it's six minutes long, but it's so worth your time. It's incredibly powerful.  My favorite line is, "Be buddies, not bullies."  This world would be a much better place if we took her advice.


  1. This is so powerful and beautiful...
    Thank you for sharing your experiences.



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