Posted by: susanideus | November 2, 2010

My Heart Hurts

The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members, a heart of grace, and a soul generated by love.  ~Coretta Scott King

So much talk of bullying. Too many stories of suicide. Taunting, teasing, tearing down. Where does it all come from? Babies don’t come into the world as bullies. It makes me sad and my heart hurts. I have been bullied. Have you?

Is bullying learned through modeling? Probably. Just as abused kids become abusers… Is bullying a response to the way a child is treated? Probably. If a child is made to feel less than, that child may act out in order to feel validated.

From an  anti-bullying site for kids comes this definition:  “bullying is used to describe many different types of behavior ranging from teasing or deliberately leaving an individual out of a social gathering or ignoring them, to serious assaults and abuse.” Being ignored is serious when all you want to do is to fit in and have friends. Teasing, carried to the extreme, as we’ve seen, can have deadly results, as much so as physical abuse.

Look around. Just watch the political commercials. Is there a better example of bully tactics? Have you seen any political debates? Talk about incivility. Where do our youth see good manners modeled? Certainly we do so in our homes, but it’s a big world out there. There are parents displaying bumper stickers touting “My child can beat up your honor student.” With “affirmations” like that from adults, what’s a kid to think?

Anyone is fair game. There’s a great deal of news lately about gender bias, and it’s quite serious. No one should be persecuted for their sexual orientation. But it doesn’t stop there. People are bullied because of their race, their age, their weight, if they are too smart, if they wear glasses,  if they are intellectually challenged, if they wear old tattered clothing, if they are deaf or blind, if they are too short, if they belong to the “wrong” clique or club. The list is endless.

I personally know people who believe that overweight persons and those of color and certain ethnic backgrounds truly possess lower IQ’s. And I do mean believe it, not just tell socially incorrect jokes about it. These ill-informed folks are not confined to one part of the country or to any one social class; they seem to be everywhere. What in the world has happened to common sense, not to mention common courtesies?

This political season has been a travesty. Free speech issues aside. Nothing positive about the ads. It’s tear down, mislead, exaggerate, and make very few positive statements about goals. No one wants to concentrate on their aims and objectives; they’re too busy denigrating their opponents. Can young people watching this in prime time–really any time–come to any conclusion other than “anything goes” if one wants to be elected, to lead, to guide the destinies of others? Do they learn this is the way to make it to the top, to be important? And these are our country’s decision makers, the ones who have power? Such examples! Ack! (I have to wonder how many people are voting because they actually believe some of these ads and admire their standards. We are in such trouble, politically and ethically. What has happened to values? But I digress…a bit.)

Creativity, which is the expression of our originality, helps us stay mindful that what we bring to the world is completely original and cannot be compared. And, without comparison,concepts like ahead or behind or best or worst lose their meaning.  ~Brené Brown

Back to bullying. Why bully if one feels good about oneself? Probably wouldn’t happen. So many people want to be what/who they aren’t because they don’t feel confident in being themselves. They compare themselves to others and come up lacking. Bombarded with ads full of rich, thin, successful, way-too-perfect models, it’s no wonder. This is true especially for young people who have no one in their lives to tell them that they are OK, that they are enough, just the way they are. They have no affirmation, so they try to make themselves feel important and powerful–and bullying happens. I’m sure that’s an over-simplification, but I know in my heart that this is the root of it all. Kids aren’t born mean, but neither are they born self-confident. It’s learned behavior, seen modeled in others.

To wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are. ~Unknown

What can we do? We can offer affirmation to a world in need. Human beings are unique and wonderful creations born with so much potential. Tell people you appreciate them for their uniqueness, for the traits that make them so. If you have children, grandchildren, god-children, nieces and nephews, special children in your life, tell them over and over again how special and unconditionally loved they are–how matchless and perfect they are, just as they are. Let them know they need not try to be anyone else, that they have no reason to compare themselves to anyone else. They are enough in themselves.

The kindest word in the world is the unkind word, unsaid. ~Source unknown

Second, model civility and courtesy and decency. Not always easy but oh so important if this is a value we want to pass along. On good days, this can be a challenge. On bad days, it’s a necessity. The Golden Rule is not out of date. “Do unto others…” should be a daily practice. If we can make one person’s day better with a smile or a kind word, we have helped change the dynamic of the day.

People gain so much hope when they know they are not experiencing something alone.  ~Joyce Rupp

Next, we must care–be there, be available, create a safe haven, be a good listener. If a child, or anyone who is abused in any way, can come to you with their fears as well as their joys, and know they will be taken seriously, it can be a huge help. No one should have to carry the burden of abuse or bullying on their own. If the situation warrants, find help, report it to someone in authority, be an advocate. Do the right thing. Epidemics can be stopped only with action. Indifference can kill–literally. We have to care.

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.  ~Elie Wiesel
Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.  ~J.K. Rowling

Lastly, we must not grow discouraged in the face of indifference or in the huge scope of the problem. One by one, we make a difference.  What we do, however insignificant it may seem to us, may impact another life. Lives are precious!

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily difference we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee. ~Marion Wright Edelman
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. ~Leo F. Buscaglia


  1. I can’t add anything. You’ve said it all, and very well. Thanks.

    • It’s just become such a huge problem. The kids that need the most help may be the bullies. Their pain isn’t always so easy to see.

  2. Sometimes the obvious is too obvious to notice! Thanks for making the excellent point about the modeling done by those running for office who trample our sensibilities and need for civility in the process. What a statement they make for young ones! I’ve shared your post on fb because it is such an important point.

    • Thanks for sharing my link, Mary. This political season has certainly trampled my sensibilities–and now when I read how much money was spent to sling all the mud, I am appalled. It’s just obscene! That money could have helped so many people. Just goes to show the true priorities of the win-at-any-cost candidates. And they’ll be running things. Horrors! Not a good lesson for our youth–and a poor example to put before the entire watching world.

  3. Susan, you really cut to the heart of the matter. Bullying is so devastating. I went through it, and so did my children. It does have to be stopped.

    I do wonder though if the definition is a bit overreaching and thus less likely to be taken seriously.

    The part I question is the one about deliberately leaving out or ignoring. Should it be incumbent on anyone to associate with another person to avoid appearing the bully when there is no heart in the association? Isn’t that in itself a form of cultural bullying? At best it would be plastic and not fool anyone.

    I don’t know the answer to this. I’ve been left of of things off and on nearly all my life, so I know how it feels. But I’ve also been invited because “it was the right thing to do,” and that was no better…

    Maybe they mean leaving someone out and following with taunts about it: “You can’t come to my party!” That’s mean! That’s bullying.

    • Sharon, thank you for your thoughtful comments. I took the “left out” to mean that which was deliberate and hurtful. No, not everyone can or should join every group. I would be lost & uncomfortable with the Society of Engineers or a chess club. Nor would I want to join a group out of pity or a quota or any other artificial means. It’s the hurtful taunting exclusions that hurt. I suppose none of us have all the answers, but if everyone helps just a little, maybe inroads will be made.

  4. Well said, my friend. Lately I have been thinking about a girl I went to elementary school with who was shunned and teased. I have never forgotten her and my heart still hurts for her. I remember one particular incident where she thought I was doing something to her that I wasn’t; I felt AWFUL to think that she thought I was tormenting her.

    I bet she’s a strong and successful woman today. I hope she is.

    • Linda, I hope your long-ago classmate has found peace & acceptance in her adult life. The scars can be deep, and better prevented than have the necessity for healing. It’s not an ideal world, though, so we all need to do what we can to affirm those children in our live. I love hearing about your grandchildren. They are so surrounded by love that I pray they will grow up to be self-confident and loving & caring. I’m sure they will with a grandma like you to help them along!

  5. The greatest gift I have ever been given in the lands of Acadaemia was a lecture in preparation for a qualification in management. My lecturers, a husband and wife team, sat us down and told us in words of one syllable about self esteem and the research surrounding it. They said, when someone is horrid, it’s not your problem, its theirs. Know that you are something really good.

    Now I try to show that to the kids I teach. It is freeing to see a bully for who they really are- someone needy with many issues to face, who may even need a strange kind of help from us.

    Thank you Susan, for writing so beautifully about such an important issue.

    • Kate, you must see so much of this every day. I suspect the problem is worldwide, and perhaps just goes along with the human condition. I do believe bullies need attention , maybe even more than the bullied. But how does one reach them? They are often in such impenetrable shells. Thanks for your comments!

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