I know that as we mature as a population certain behaviors become outdated, less civil or just wrong. Here in the US we found taxation without representation to be deplorable. Then capital punishment needed to change. It was just wrong to hang someone or just chop their head off. No, we should electrocute them. But that wasn’t right either. Now we will chemically put them to sleep.Then stop their heart. Yeah that’s better.
But this editorial isn’t on ancient civil practices or contemporary capital punishment procedures. I want to talk about bullying. We all have experienced it directly or vicariously through others we know. It is not good, right or ever really in style. But it is natural. Call it “natural selection on the social scale” when someone stronger imposes on a weaker person.
In nature social struggles such as these have a permanent stock. Pack animals use bullying to maintain order. Not that I would say that any of our children are like a pack of wolves or a pride of lions. But, I do see the similarity. Cliques, groups, social circles – they are all packs or prides of children. So the intellectual minds of today see this as well. We go to extreme measures to remove the wildness that our children still exhibit. We have well meaning psychologist and psychiatrists develop a strategy to train this behavior right out of us. We tell our children that if someone talks to you “mean” then they are bullying you. That might be true. Heck, it probably is. We don’t stop here though. Nope. We go further. I think that we go too far. We tell our children that they are victims and they cannot handle this themselves. They should go to an authority figure to help them out. Maybe.
My father and grandfather taught us when we were young to stand up for yourself. They supported us when we had conflict with other children. Sometimes watching from afar. But always watching. They taught us as children that we are different from everyone. So are the other children. We are all different. We each have our strengths and weaknesses. But like any muscle that needs stress to build it up so does our inner strength. It takes bullies and challenges, that will sometimes be more than we can handle at first, to build up that inner strength that some people call confidence. When I was small we learned a little prose that was created to help build this inner strength. You know it. Most people do.
“Sticks and stones can break my bones. But words cannot hurt me.”
I recently was told by my wife that one of my children said that the statement was false. I stood shocked at first. I know that people can use words to create pain for people. But the phrase was not meant for that at all. It was meant to help children cope with threats of physical attack. Or that pestering bully that wants to tell you that your pants were too short. Like you didn’t know that already. This isn’t false. It is true. The only time words hurt you – they only time – is when you let them. Emotion can be evoked by events that are surrounding you. That is a sure thing. But you can learn to control these emotions. Being sad because someone points out that you are almost six feet tall but weigh less than even some of the skinniest girls in school – is a choice. I learned it early on. Sometimes you stand out in the crowd. And when that happens, you have to learn to deal with it. Being smart was OK when I grew up in school. But you couldn’t be too smart. Nope you were a nerd, geek or something like that. Standing out again. More names to be called. The odd thing to me is that as a society we haven’t quite gotten that yet. “Got what” you say? Bullies are going to point out the obvious. They are not going to tell you something that you don’t already know. I knew my pants were too short. I didn’t have any others to wear. And just like me, any child that is getting bullied was already sad, disappointed, angry, embarrassed about that WAY before the bully pointed it out. Is it right that they brought your inner feelings like that out into public? No. Not at all. But that bully can only be as effective as you let them be.
Because I am certain that all children are aware of what bullying is, I propose a new/old strategy here. Teach our children to learn how to handle it. Teach them how humor or selective hearing can sidetrack the comment. I used these as a child and still do with great success. Support your child by showing them their inner and outer strengths. Show them that helping out that child, who doesn’t have it figured out yet, can help them even more.
I had classmates that called me names. But if I let them hurt me by saying those names, then I lose. I will not let them hurt me. Names are just words. Their words cannot hurt me.