Bullying has become a serious public health problem. Victims of bullying are reported to experience school phobia, feelings of insecurity, and unhappiness at school; they may also have low self-esteem, loneliness, and isolation. In contrast, perpetrators of bullying are reported to have more depression and are more likely than are their peers to be involved with antisocial behaviors and legal problems later in adult-hood.
Unfortunately, as with Amanda, and 3 other teens in the news last year, suicide appeared to be the only way to stop the harassment. Canada has one of the highest rates of teen suicide in developed countries.
But bullying is nothing new. As I read the tactics of bullies, I realize that I was bullied in public school – decades ago. Every walk home at the end of the school day in my last year, I endured taunts, insults and even punches from a group of girls that had made it their mission to end my every school day in misery. It was not called bullying back then. And I can see now with the wisdom of years that I was just an unfortunate target for the anger and frustration they experienced in their lives.
Being a victim or perpetrator of bullying is the most common type of school violence.
Every child begins school with a clean slate – they are innocent of being either the bully or the bullied. Cliques, ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, cool and un-cool and bullies are unknown. What erodes that innocence? As each school year progresses, we see the innocence factor replaced by social influences. Studies show that bullies come to believe that aggression is the best solution to conflicts. They also have a strong need to dominate, and derive satisfaction from injuring others. Most bullies are physically strong and they specifically seek out kids who are ill-equipped to fight back. Is the basic premise that the strong have a right to overpower and humiliate the weak?
Anti-bullying education, awareness programs and legislation are all aimed to recognize and stop the bullying before tragedy strikes. Along with the mobilization of all these efforts, one of the best tools to use in time of conflict is as‘ancient as the ancient of days’ – the Bible
Consider the story of Joseph (coat of many colours fame). He was a young teen when his brothers bullied him to the point they sold him off as a slave! His story of being bullied continued as he was unjustly accused, imprisoned and endured many attempts to make his life miserable. But Joseph had the power of innocence. He never retaliated; never let go of knowing that his heavenly Father was with him through each challenge of his life. And he eventually rose to the position of second in command of a vast nation.
“Don’t we all come from one Father? Aren’t we all created by the same God? So why can’t we get along?” (Malachi 2:10 The Message) Good questions to include in the education and awareness programs for bullying and anti-social behavior.
When I was bullied after school and arrived home in tears most days, my parents helped me to keep the power of my innocence. In our small town, bullying was not highly publicized. There was no public recourse. Instead, we talked about loving your fellow man even when it was most difficult. This was my first lesson in ‘turning the other cheek’. I can see now how that helped me to not respond or retaliate to the bullies. It would only make matters worse. I was able to hold onto the sense that I was innocent of any of their taunts and threats. I graduated to a large high school and my course choices kept me separated from that group.
From this experience and many more in my life since, I have found that a deeper spiritual approach to life’s events helps to restore not only my physical health, but my emotional well-being. And studies indicate that both youth and adults who have a significant spiritual or religious underpinning tend to be mentally and physically healthier. They also show that these individuals are less likely to take their lives. Along with anti-bullying awareness and training, perhaps a strong spiritual foundation can avert both perpetrator and victim scenarios and contribute to the safety and well-being of every child.
Follow me on Twitter www.twitter.com@csmediaontario