Everybody is against bullying. Parents post pictures on Facebook of their kid standing on a street corner holding a sign stating “Shame on me for being a bully”. It makes me sad that they do not recognize that public humiliation is a form of bullying. We have pink t-shirt campaigns and we spend a lot of time campaigning against bullying. In the same way that we Just Say No to drugs, we Just Say No to bullies. Thankfully the kind of abuse I endured and perpetrated as a small child is not tolerated as readily anymore. Gone are the days when kids would facewash their classmates in snow with the full confidence that nothing would be done about it. I do believe that our society has become much less violent and abusive. But the anti-bullying campaigns have been partly misguided.
The emphasis should be on reflecting on your own personal behavior and making amends for any kind of bullying that you may have done in the past. The problem with the majority of anti-bullying campaigns is that they point fingers outward at other people rather than getting people to think about they act. Nobody can control the way that other people behave. The only person I have control of is myself. It is reminiscent of anti-rape campaigns that focus on getting victims to change their behavior to avoid being targeted. While it is true that taking common sense safety precautions is a sensible idea, it will not do anything to eliminate the cause of rape. Rape is caused by somebody making a choice to violently violate and hurt the victim. Bullying is caused by people choosing to engage in harmful behavior. They may lack the self awareness of the harm caused by their behavior. Admitting your mistakes is very hard to do but extremely valuable. Every sentient being wants the same thing. We all want to be happy and free of pain. If you hurt somebody you also hurt yourself.
The main reason why bullying in all its forms continues to manifest in all its different ways is due to its pervasiveness. We are so immersed in a culture that ignores and perpetuates bullying that we don’t even see it. That is why teaching people to change their own behavior is so important. The first step towards living in a kinder, gentler world is getting everybody to recognize all the ways that people continue to hurt each other. A parent reacts to a child’s tears by yelling at them. The child learns that it is the way to treat problems that you don’t want to deal with. Why is Gordon Ramsay so popular? Because a lot of people secretly wish they had the nerve to say the mean and horrible things that they are thinking. Buy nurturing mean thoughts towards people ultimately hurts yourself.
A few months ago I went through a period of intense reflection about my life. I have been hurt badly by loved ones. As a part of the healing process I have managed to forgive those that have hurt me. I have also given a great deal of thought to some of the ways that I have hurt people in the past and I have resolved to do my best to never hurt another person ever again. Ever since I did that I have felt happier and more at peace than I have ever been before. Resolving to be as loving as I can has really made my life so much better. If I can do it than anybody can do it.