Being a parent of children in grammar school and in high school, as well as working as a corporate consultant for many years, has opened my eyes to the ever-increasing cases of people being mean to one another. One young woman told me that someone who was bullying her said, “It’s just fun to make you feel awful.”
According to the “Stop Bullying Now 2013” website (www.stopbullyingnow2013.com), “Schools in today’s society harbor approximately 2.1 million bullies and astonishingly 2.7 million of their victims, also … 1 in 7 students in Grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying. Statistics also show that 56% of students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school, and 15% of all school absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied at school, and that 71% of today’s students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school.”
Millions and millions of students every single day go to school, are at school or come home with a knot in the pit of their stomach and a sadness they can’t shake because someone else has decided it’s “fun to be mean.” And the problem doesn’t stop in school: I’ve collected case stories for many years on bullying in the workplace. Bosses, co-workers and subordinates can make the work environment so oppressive and scary that some people feel compelled to quit a job just to escape the emotional torture.
And we know that those bullied don’t always show their scars. The emotional and mental turmoil that can occur can be long-lasting. Some people never recover their confidence from having been bullied and believing that their tormentors may have been right.
Why do bullies feel the need to be so mean? The answers to this question are as complex as any. We know that bullies often were bullied themselves, or they lack self-confidence, or they get a group or following to side with them so they become more popular. We know that they can have a difficult home life, or be a child who doesn’t feel loved or cared about.
The truth is that each of us has an opportunity to create an environment where bullying is not as able to thrive. I witness many times that the “friends” of those being bullied begin to side with the bullies – after all, who wants to get on the bad side of someone who is so mean? It’s better to join them than to try and beat them, right?
But if we don’t practice kindness, and we don’t stand alongside someone who is being bullied, we are part of the problem too. It’s so easy for us to blame another person for our pain. It’s so easy for us to use unkind words when we could have as easily spoken with kindness and consideration. It’s so easy for us to ignore someone else’s pain and choose not to get involved, rather than turn our attention away from our own needs and place it on someone else’s.
We know – deep down – that the one who bullies IS the one with the problem. We know – deep down –that it is wrong to be unkind. We see situations where someone else was mistreated and we can’t believe these things happen. And yet every time we make the choice to choose mean over nice and to disregard someone else’s needs, we have been party to being just like the bully.
We are all seeking validation. We want to be acknowledged for who we are. We want someone to care. These are natural human needs. Making a choice to be the mean one, to be the bully, steals a part of our soul each time we do so. Choosing to be kind and to offer support and care to someone, even if we feel they don’t deserve it, fills our soul in a positive way.
Try and fill your heart with the desire to be more kind and choose this over “mean” even when the circumstances make it difficult to do so. Every person who chooses “kind” sends that positive spirit into the universe and toward others. We need as much kindness circulating as possible – and the 2.7 million students suffering the pain of bullying need us, too.