Sunday, October 14, 2012
A young girl in BC committed suicide the other day. Some time ago she had posted a video on YouTube or on Facebook telling her friends that she had been bullied and was now feeling desperate. She explains how she had been pressured into posting a nude photo of herself to a ‘friend’ and that person made the photo public. Then others online, perhaps even fellow-classmates in school, called her unflattering names causing her much distress. Even after her death people have posted nasty comments about her on a page of remembrance!
There have been many young people worldwide who have killed themselves over bullying. Some of the bullying was because the teens were gay but many were not. It is said that bullying is most often over ‘body image’ but bullies will always find a reason to bully someone.
Parents and educators would like to find the answer to ‘Why young people are bullied’ and how to stop it. There have been campaigns and posters, ‘wear pink’ crusades and clubs formed to stop bullying. What are the causes and solutions to this problem?
Were there always bullies?
There have probably always been bullies around. Even since sin entered the world, there are those who try to take advantage of others. There will always be people who don’t care what pain they cause others. But bullying seems to be on the increase and cyber-bullying is 'attractive' because it can be anonymous.
It may be thought that those who cave in to bullies have low-esteem but in reality it is the bullies themselves that have a problem of low esteem. They have to make others feel badly about themselves so that they can feel good.
We have to prevent bullying but we also have to equip young people to handle bullying. Of course, we always want others to like us. Young people, particularly, want to be popular but if we didn’t let bullies bother us, would the bullying stop?
Why are there bullies?
I have thought back to my school days and tried to think if I, or someone else that I knew, was ever bullied in school. I can’t remember ever being bullied. As a child I had asthma and could not run without being affected. This made me a very bad baseball player but I can’t remember anyone ever picking on me for that. There was one kid in our class who dressed differently, kept to himself and never said much to anyone. I don’t know if he was ever ‘bullied’ - I never saw anyone actually bully him. Sadly, though, we did ignore him.
I grew up in a small farming community in Alberta. Maybe the reason there wasn’t bullying was that everyone was pretty much in the same boat. There were no children of other races in the school. We had never heard of ‘homosexuals’ and ‘gay’ simply meant ‘happy’ then. One girl in high school was ‘boyish’ but I don’t think she was bullied over it. There were people who were poorer than others but most of us had more or less the same kinds of clothes as everyone else. The only ’ labels’ in our clothes were Sears mail-order labels.
How do we teach self-esteem?
Today’s children are taught that if they want to they can be anything they want. Perhaps there is an over- emphasis on teaching children self-esteem. And yet the message of self-esteem has not had any effect. On one hand, our children are told that they are made up of only molecules, there have no soul and when they die that is the end of them. We spend the rest of the time trying to convince them in spite of being just a collection of chemicals they should have self-esteem!
We don’t tell our children that they are made in the image of God and that they are worthwhile because of this very fact. We forget to tell our children that there is a God who made them and loves them.
St. Augustine said, “You have made us for Yourself, Oh God, and we are restless until we find our rest in Thee.” But we have forgotten that truth and we try to find purpose in a world that we say has no purpose. We seek our happiness only in sex, power, popularity and money and if we do not have these in abundance, we are are seen as failures.
The media, television, movies, books and the internet, teach values that are often at odds to the values we would like to pass on to the next generation. Young people lose their innocence as they are exposed to pornography at a click of the mouse. It is impossible for a girl to have self-respect and self-esteem if she thinks she is only wanted for ‘her body’ and ‘to be used by others’.
How we should treat others?
Most of all we forget to teach our children “Always treat others the same way that you would like to be treated.” This means that you shouldn’t bully others because you wouldn’t want to be bullied. Christians know that Jesus said this but apparently other world religions also teach a form of this Golden Rule. But today religious teaching is looked upon with contempt and some even believe that parents should not be allowed to teach religious values to their own children!
Yes, let’s stop bullying. But let’s stop it by teaching children those two important things:
1) You were created in the image of God so you have true worth
2) Treat others the same way you would like to be treated.
Bullying won't be eradicated completely but there may be less of it.