Wednesday, February 27, 2013

" compassion is never a flaw..."

"You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life." – Winston Churchill

     Recently, the topic of bullying or cyber bullying was examined by an author I admire on another forum. He used the recent example of a pro female athlete that was being viciously stalked and harassed online.  Sadly, the athlete felt she had suffered so much emotional abuse she made the choice to end her career. We only know the side of the story exposed by the media. What really moved me was the number of adults who commented about being bullied as children. Some of them shared the most painfully touching testimonies. Adults have been genuinely scarred by the cruelty of their past tormentors.
     In the last five or six years there have been major campaigns shedding an empathetic spot light  on the subject of bullying and social media harassment. If simple awareness has influenced or motivated just one child or parent to stand up for those who are bullied then it's a message worth repeating. When I was in high school my best friend was an incredibly creative, intelligent young man. He also happened to be gay. He was very effeminate so naturally people suspected or assumed he was gay. We bonded immediately because we shared a love of art, music, humor and the desire to one day leave our little town for the supposedly more sophisticated mentality of a big city.

     The greatest lesson ever learned from our friendship is that when people are being unfairly teased and brutalized by others; you STAND UP and defend them. Years of intimidation had hardened his attitude substantially. He was loving, compassionate and kind to those who knew and treated him well. Being taunted and verbally abused DOES NOT build character or give children a sense of inner strength. Parents, you made the choice to have a child. YOU are developing the mind of an impressionable human being not constructing a hard ass U.S Marine Corps drill sergeant. My friend stood up for himself and was damned if he was going to allow his circle of confidants to be dragged down to a level of ignorance. What he faced on a daily basis was disturbing to witness. Even teachers and adult personnel at the school shunned or ridiculed him. In my heart and soul I knew the adults who I had once respected were insulting, condescending and just flat out wrong.

     Having been at one time a substitute teacher, teachers aide  and high school administrative assistant I've observed bullying time and time again. What continues to baffle me is our acceptance of "herd" or "sheep" mentality. One comment or criticism and a child is considered a pariah or outcast by classmates. Adults need to be more conscious and sensitive to children who are being victimized, alienated or children who exhibit excessive anger and aggression. Being disrespectful and cruel should not be tolerated at any age. Parents have the most powerful influence over their child's behavior. Ask yourself. Are you raising a bully?

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