When we were kids and used to sing “Sting and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me”, we were blissfully unaware of just how painful words can be. Anyone who has been bullied or had people spread rumors about them knows that words can in fact hurt. Chiara spoke about being bullied for being the pretty girl. I’ve spoken about having problems when younger as well despite being friends with “popular”, “band”, “geek”, “brains”, etc in school. I was never truly bullied but certainly mean things were said.
All too often we hear of kids (teens and young adults) who are taking their own lives because they are being bullied and harassed. Having never been bullied to that degree it’s hard for me to image things getting bad enough to warrant committing suicide, but that’s me. I also didn’t grow up in the age of twitter and Facebook where cyber bullying is so very prevalent and permanent. I cannot imagine what goes on in their heads when things get that bad.
Why am I talking about this now?
I’m writing this because the other day I saw a Facebook message about 15 year old Felecia Garcia who, tragically, committed suicide the other day. After incessant bullying at the hands of her peers in school she tweeted, “I can’t, I’m done, I give up” before jumping in front of a subway train in Staten Island, NY. Though police say there is no proof of bullying many of her peers claim that she was accused of being a “slut” and that profane and constant verbal harassment was thrown her way after an alleged “sex party” where she engaged in sex acts with some football players. Of course those same football players then joined in the bullying.
This is yet another example that words CAN hurt and that your actions do affect other people. Nobody lives in a bubble and what we say and do does affect those around us. The sooner we, as citizens of the world, realize this, the better. You may think that the gossip you share with your friends is harmless and that the laughing and pointing you do in the hallways goes unnoticed but it isn’t and it doesn’t.
What can we do about this?
There is so much that we can do to solve this problem. The problem was created by us and the solution lies with us as well. Talk to your children about bullying and the affects of cruel words on other people. Talk to your children about what to do if they are being bullied and whom they can go to about it. Take action yourself. Stop the gossip and the rumor spreading. If you are witness to this type of behavior, stand up for the victim and say something. Sure, it can be awkward to step into a conversation, but as adults when you see others behaving this way I think it is totally within our rights to step in and say, “What you’re doing is unkind and hurtful and should stop.” That person getting bullied may not have anyone but YOU to step in and help them.
I’m also a firm believer in getting more (and better equipped) counselors in the schools. We need to crack down on bulling, BUT we also need to provide these kids with an outlet and coping tools. I am NOT blaming the victims here, but there are ways to handle bullies that do not include taking your life. It’s not a solution. We should be promoting sites like www.ItGetsBetter.org and www.TheTrevorProject.org where youth (and adults) can go for support, resources, and messages of hope.
My Take Away Message
Remember that while sticks and stones may break your bones, names DO hurt. Be conscious of your actions and your words. Speak with purpose and use your voice for good. Reach out to that person you see floundering. Realize that we are all on this jourey of life together. We may be different people on different paths but we all want one basic thing: to be happy. Why can’t we support one another on that journey? Be nice. Smile at somebody today. Offer a hug. Lend a hand. More importantly be sure to be kind to one another.