Archive for January, 2014

Amid reminiscence, I had a conversation with my wife and brother yesterday about junior high and high school, and the various experiences it entailed, and the topic of bullying came up.  I want to be cautious as I broach this topic, but it’s something that’s been weighing on me for a few weeks now.

It all started with this video from Facebook; if you didn’t already see it, take a peek.  My response may not be one you’d expect.

A couple of things to keep in mind; first, I was bullied in high school, junior high school, and a little bit (but not much) in elementary school.  I wasn’t ever physically bullied, save for a few limited instances.  I understand psychological bullying because I’ve been on the receiving end of it.  Also take into consideration my recent focus on becoming more healthy and active.  Now to the video.  I am assuming that the viewer’s message to her was not censored in any way, and that the content that she shared was complete (as it was sent to her).  His message didn’t come off to me as offensive; perhaps a bit blunt, and without a doubt inappropriate.  I am not condoning what he did, and don’t think what he did was the right thing to do, regardless of whether or not it was intended only has honest, selfless concern.  But it was definitely not bullying.  She suggested that he had no business sending that email because he doesn’t know her (on the inside)…I struggle with that; it suggests to me that I can’t mourn the loss of someone I didn’t know, or be concerned about an accident on the side of the road when I don’t actually see anyone hurt.  Just because people don’t know you doesn’t me they can’t be concerned for you.  And like I said, it wasn’t necessarily the “appropriate” thing to do, but it surely wasn’t presented as malicious, or negative, or aggressive.  It was presented as a viewer (regardless of frequency) who was concerned about her health, as well as the impact that her health might have on her regular viewing audience.  And, I’m not sure it was completely unfounded.

I’m not trying to say bad things about people who struggle with weight–but for her to condemn him for showing concern for her health, then in the same message admit to being “obese on a doctor’s chart,” seems a bit contradictory.  But I, like that viewer, don’t know her either, and presumably would have no business telling her that’s the case.

But I struggle with the fact that “bullying” nowadays seems to be more a buzzword than anything else, something that people cling to as an excuse only so they can play the victim.  It doesn’t happen in all cases, but what we see in the media A LOT now is not really what I’d consider bullying.   And to me it’s very much in line with our obsession with being more politically correct, or our concern that our kids have too much exposure to ________ (fill in the blank).

So, my very specific experience wasn’t as bad as it could have been, I get that.  I’m sure that there are plenty of folks out there who had it much worse than I did.  But here’s the thing: bullying absolutely had a hand in my development; it helped me become who I am.  Not that it was a necessary means to that end, but it did the trick, and I’m good now.  What sets it apart for me from a lot of what we see in the media now is fear: I was legitimately afraid of the bullies I had to deal with.  It wasn’t necessarily rational, and looking back on it now it was ridiculous, stupid, petty shit.  If I could go back in time and tell the younger me how to deal with it I would in a heartbeat, so the younger me didn’t have to feel that fear.  And the solution doesn’t involve “playing dead” and just taking it, because that doesn’t make the fear go away.  It doesn’t involve reporting things to the authorities, either; if you’re in a school and you go tell the principal that you’re being picked on, the bullies aren’t going to be held accountable to the point that they change their ways.  Socially, bullies only understand one thing: bullying.  So, you fight fire with fire.  And that’s ok, that sort of thing should be permitted, because there are extremely valuable life lessons there.

And what’s more–I bully my kids.  This shouldn’t be a shocker, as people who are bullied a lot have a tendency to develop thicker skins, then become bullies themselves.  And I’m not relentless, I don’t bully them the way I was bullied…but just like a lot of other life lessons, I feel that the earlier you can learn to deal with those sorts of things the better.   And it doesn’t stop when you leave school, either; bullies are everywhere.  My kids won’t just be able to ignore bullies, to let things roll of their backs–they will be able to stand up for themselves, because they’ll understand how their aggressors are thinking, how they’re processing my kids’ reactions.  This is right in line with teaching them manners, respect, and awareness of their surroundings–they need to know how to conduct themselves in life, because there is no shelter from it…we all have to deal with it.

Then again, maybe that’s just my augmented view of reality…

Thanks for reading.  Be well and stay tuned.