I’ve been reading too many stories about bullying recently. Shocking tales of young people driven to distraction by relentless torment. Heart crushing accounts of teenagers posting videos on YouTube detailing their harassment and hours later taking their own lives.
It’s a sickening and tragic truth.
Bullying has now extended beyond the home and school day and found a toxic and fertile breeding ground on the Internet. This means that perpetrators have access to their victims 24/7 and victims can literally never catch their breath. The Internet, as we all know, is not a cozy corner. It’s a wide-open forum where abusers can roam freely, while those being abused can feel utterly exposed and unprotected.
This is not a new landscape, but it is one where new avenues appear daily. Adults provide the tools to build unpoliced neighbourhoods, and then we allow our children to access all areas. When disaster strikes, which it inevitably will, we hold up our hands and ask “How did that happen?”
This is how it happens.
We are not born bullies. I do believe that we are born with personalities, with predilections, with potential, but the path those elements take is shaped by our environment.
We learn behaviours as we grow.
As children we consciously and unconsciously model the adults who punctuate our days. If those adults move through the world expressing intolerance and distaste for difference, then why should we be expected to do otherwise? If those adults do not show us kindness, compassion, understanding and love, then how can we develop those qualities in ourselves?
Children who experience attacking parents and frequent battlegrounds in their formative years become adept at creating defense strategies.
They harden their tenderness.They mimic. They armour. They collect an arsenal of emotional artillery and choose to either withdraw and baton down the hatches, or fight back.
If they can’t fight back at home for fear of retaliation, they fight back out in the world. They fire rounds of harassment on someone’s Facebook page. They empower themselves by bullying others. They target weakness in their peers, which in reality is a reflection of the weakness they feel within.
The perpetrator more often than not has lived as a victim. And so the cycle continues….
Why has it become so difficult to break this cycle? Because the ‘bully’ has been internalized. It’s an effort to show genuine kindness and compassion to another human being if we can’t even show it to ourselves.
And in order to harbour self-compassion, we need to have been taught how to do so in our youth. We commonly learn ways to be ‘hard on ourselves’ but being ‘soft’ doesn’t garner equal attention.
Emotional Literacy should be a compulsory class in all National Curriculums, in all schools, and then maybe we can start raising a generation of children who will blossom into parents capable of making these vital connections… capable of breaking the cycle.
Sadly it’s evident that society’s bullying mentality isn’t going away anytime soon, but if continued dialogue can save even one child or one teenager from the fate of becoming either the victim or the perpetrator – or both – then surely it’s worth persisting?
Write about bullying. What are your thoughts on this post? Were you bullied as a child or teenager? Do you have a story to tell? Are you a bully to yourself? Let’s open up the dialogue…