Perhaps the saddest reality about the recent rash of suicides of youth due to bullying is that it has revealed a lack of active involvement in preventing it by adults.
Over and over again, I have heard distressed parents say in interviews that they told school officials about the bullying their child were suffering, but little to nothing was done.
Bullying is a poison which corrodes the spirit and emotions of its victims. The spirit and emotions of human beings are sensitive, and really act as a protective “skin” over the person’s sense of self. The bullying, which may be physical or verbal, splashes over the person’s sense of self, which is very delicate, and can permanently corrode that very sense, leading victims to distress, despair, a diminished sense of self, and, at worst, suicide.
This corroding is not unlike the process that happens if a person accidentally drinks a corrosive substance, such as antifreeze. Long after the victim has been treated, there is residual burning of his or her internal organs, and can result in a hole being burned into one’s esophagus.
Or the effects of bullying can be compared to what happens when one is seriously burned. Severe and persistent bullying is like a third degree burn, which burns away the skin all the way down to muscle and bone. The skin is the largest organ of the human body and its job is to protect our organs and internal structures. A severe burn takes away the protection and in addition to severe pain, the victim runs the risk of infection.
Bullying results in unprotected spirits, subject to infection, and as in the case of physical burns, spiritual and emotional burns resulting in infection too often lead to death.
We have a tendency to miss the importance of one’s spirit. A person with a crushed spirit is hindered and crippled, relying on the poisonous actions and words as a measure of his or her self worth. They have a hard time believing in themselves and, because they are hurting and filled with hatred fed to them by others, will either lash out at others or go into a protective shell.
No amount of love can coax them out of that shell. Like a physical burn, these spiritual and emotional burns take a long time to heal and leave horrible scars.
Much attention has been, or is being, paid to gay kids who have been and are being bullied, but the truth is, all kinds of kids who are different or perceived to be different, are bullied. A father who defended his daughter who was being bullied was featured on television recently. His daughter has cerebral palsy and was so traumatized by the bullying that she didn’t want to take the school bus anymore.
The father was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor.
Kids are not the only ones being bullied. Adults are bullied as well, perhaps the same adults who were bullied as kids. You don’t really say anything if you’re bullied as an adult; you endure it for whatever reason you feel you must, and try to go on. To make matters even worse, some adults participate in the bullying of kids, in effect encouraging their kids who bully to continue to do so.
The difference between being bullied now and, say, 20 years ago, is the internet in general and social media in particular. There is a weird power the written word has; a toxic and caustic email can cause the deepest distress, and if a toxic message is posted on Facebook or Twitter, hundreds of people, known and unknown, immediately jump into the fray.
The burning of the bullied person’s spirit begins and burns them down to the bone and muscle.
We all do better when we know better. I would suppose that a host of adults know better, having survived being bullied themselves. Adults, then, who have been in the fire ought to be active participants in putting the fires out that are being started by bullies today, or, better, be active in preventing the fires.
If ever there was a need for people to embrace diversity, it is now. Despite the complaints of some who “want their country back,” neither America nor the world will ever be the same. Homosexuality is never going to be ignored again by those who want to ignore it. Violence in the form of bullying against gay youth and adults is not going to succeed in getting gay people to “go away.” The world is making room for those who are not white, straight, healthy males.
If adults cannot and do not step up, teaching their kids that bullying is wrong, and reminding themselves that bullying is not a sign of power but rather represents the despicable form of weakness, the rash of suicides is going to only increase. The children, teens, and young adults need us, who now know better, to do better.
We don’t need another person’s spirit burned down to its core. Not another one. Enough, already.