Not everyone has been a bully or the victim of bullies, but everyone has seen bullying, and seeing it, has responded to it by joining in or objecting, by laughing or keeping silent, by feeling disgusted or feeling interested. - Octavia E. Butler
The solution to putting an end to bullying is to stop it at the source but also to find out what is causing the person to behave the way that they do. - Hunter King
Today is Pink Shirt Day, the day when politicians, businessmen, schools and churches call upon everyone to wear a pink shirt to send a statement about bullying and how it must come to an end.
We are told that to do so makes a difference.
Statistics tell us a different story, that bullying, battery, cyber-bullying and other forms of intimidation (and sometimes violence) continue to grow unabated, regardless of whatever feel-good actions we take and whatever legislation we pass.
And as I reflect upon the collision between feel-good intentions and reality, I reflect upon my own Life.
I spent my entire childhood hiding from bullies. As part of an education experiment growing up, I had some grades combined which meant that I was accepted in college at the age of 15.
So being much younger than my schoolmates (and therefore much smaller) and more gifted academically (as evidenced by school grades), this left me ripe for bullies.
My bully from grades 2 through 6 was Cliff, who verbally and physically abused me relentlessly and incessantly. His house was between mine and my elementary school so avoiding him was rather difficult. <<I understand that Cliff moved on to a cocaine-filled Life filled with many complexities.>>
Poor grades on Cliff’s part caused him to be in a different part of junior high school and so he was replaced by Barry who relished his role as the destroyer of worlds (at least my world).
Barry’s bad grades separated Barry and I in high school but other people were there to fill his shoes. Paul, Steve, Stewart, Tony, Randy and others took brutality to a new level, often mock-raping me in the shower-room, holding me down and taking turns dry-humping me. After they finished high school, they moved on to blue collar businesses and are reasonably successful by their own definition although a trail of broken marriages and such would speak differently.
Having been accepted in college at the age of 15 in a classroom of twenty-somethings and being adept in the early world of Computer Science, I became the victim of people like Dennis, Dwight and others who assumed the role of my bully du jour before poor grades caused them to drop out.
It took a lot of years to overcome their damage but I did and I was driven to create success for myself and others. I was also driven to lift others or to lend a hand when no one else would.
Did the bullies drive me to this? Could it be argued that what they did to me drove me to experience the blessings that I later experienced in Life and to serve the downtrodden, the oppressed and those without a voice?
It’s possible but I’m sure there were easier ways to experience the Life I am grateful for now.
I doubt the bullies that I experienced in my early days remember or care what they did. Statistically, many of them are creating or have created a new generation of bullies.
I wonder if they are cognizant of this or if they care.
I doubt it but who is to say for sure.
And so as I reflect upon Pink Shirt Day today and I look back upon my early days, I wonder if such a campaign would have helped me feel better back then as I suffered in silence and humiliation?
Would Pink Shirt Day have prevented the bullies from chasing me relentlessly, somehow convincing them that they were doing the wrong thing?
I doubt it.
The reason is that they were mentally broken, many of them damaged by broken fathers or other family members. Feel-good moments rarely have an impact on those who need to be mentally rewired.
The reality is that we need more than feel-good moments to stop the ever-increasing frequency and brutality of bullying.
We need to neutralize the process that creates the bully in the first place.
To accomplish this, we need many things, not the least of which are better role-models in the worlds of business, politics, religion and in the home because this is often where bullying starts or is identified as an acceptable practice.
For example ….
I recently disconnected from a colleague of many years because he was incessantly consumed by pointing out what a mean bully Donald Trump is. In fact, he was so consumed by proving this that he would tear layers off anyone who dared to suggest that he move on to something more productive with his Life and he spent his days on social media sharing hateful messages designed to intimidate. Ironically, his actions were directed towards a man who didn’t know and thus didn’t care what my colleague thought, making my colleague’s actions one of futility.
When I pointed out to my colleague that I found it ironic that he was using bullying tactics to fight alleged bullying, he and his colleagues beset upon me with insults.
When I quoted one of his countrymen, Gandhi, that “we should be the change we wish to see in the world” and I asked him if he felt that he was being a good role model for his children in solving the problems of the world, the level of brutal taunting from him and people who thought like him escalated to the point where a 25-year friendship came to an end.
He missed the irony that he was modeling the very thing that he claimed to be against. In fact, pointing this out merely made him more angry.
Reality can be a brutal teacher.
Another example ….
Many (not all) politicians who cite being bullied online or within their political party have a dark secret themselves. Many of them are known to their colleagues and victims as brutal bullies themselves, often firing the first shot and not merely being “strong” in an act of self defense.
Ironically (or maybe not), they can dish it out ad nauseum but it serves a useful political tool to come forward and tell people that they were bullied.
The funny thing is that if you name them publicly as bullies once they leave public office, then they will hit you with a SLAPP suit, a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. They do this under the guise of self defense to protect their reputation but the reality is that their need to bully is just manifesting in a different way (or the need exists to stifle public awareness of their true self).
Meanwhile, the easily guided (or misguided) fall prey to the politician’s call to rally the troops around their defense, only to realize later that they have been supporting an aggressor and not a victim.
So is wearing a Pink Shirt helping today?
Look at the statistics and answer the question for yourself.
The Bottom Line
Awareness of an existing problem is all fine and good and it is important to an extent.
However, anyone who is not aware of the scale and impact of bullying has likely been transported here from another planet.
It’s fine to get all stoked up by feel-good campaigns promoted by businessmen, politicians, church leaders and various not-for-profits.
But after you have felt the love and camaraderie that comes from wearing a pink shirt like everyone else, ask yourself what you need to do to stop bullying.
Ask yourself what kind of role model you are for others.
Ask yourself what you should do when you see a failed role model in action.
After all, it’s only when we get to the core of where bullies are formed and allowed to do what they do and then neutralize the bullying at the source that we will start solving the deep, complex issues created by bullies (and how the bullies were created).
It will also give us an opportunity to heal the bully, many of whom have been broken themselves by others who are broken, thereby breaking a chain of generational bully creation.
To do otherwise would be akin to feeding a diabetic Twinkies because he aches for them while simultaneously amputating his limbs one after the other.
Feel-good gestures and awareness are fine motivators but they don’t solve much.
Are you ready to take action today?
Are you ready to move past the feel-good of wearing a specific shirt and lazily sharing a few social media posts and instead, to become a model human being, exhibiting the traits and behaviors that you want others to emulate (especially our children) and to demand the same from our leaders in business, politics, the church and other areas?
Are you ready to do what it takes to be that model where you work, where you live and in your family?
Good, because the world is waiting for you.
What are you waiting for?
In service and servanthood,
PS I’ve often engaged in conversations with people who cite the importance of feel-good actions while simultaneously dismissing the importance of follow-on action with measurable results. When I ask them to cite the data that shows that they are solving the problem that they intend to solve, they eventually admit that there is no data and with that admission, the conversation eventually devolves into a shouting match instigated by them.
What, if anything, does this tell us?
What, if anything, does it do to help those who are in need?
Addendum - Irony - February 22, 2017
Someone was reading this blog while attending a Calgary Hitmen game this morning. The purpose of the game is to promote anti-bullying and pink shirts were distributed to all the kids who were in attendance. What was ironic according to the person who texted me was that the kids were chanting in favor of fighting when some fights broke out on the ice during a game meant to promote an end towards bullying.
Addendum 2 - Our Veterans - February 22, 2017
Twitter user artocracy made what I thought to be a powerful observation in comparing feel-good notions like Pink Shirt Day to Veteran's / Remembrance Day when we take one day out of the entire year to honor those who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. I found the observation to be a poignant one. In that case, we leave our vets to suffer from PTSD, homelessness, starvation and everything else for most of the year but on one day, we honor their sacrifice. Honoring them should include daily action to take care of those who have blessed us with freedom. We instead opt for one day of easy, result-less feel-good "stuff", honoring them with parades, wearing poppies and the like while we forget them for the rest of the year.
A sobering thought.
- The Significance of Insignificant Events (how bullies contributed to my career choices)
- After the Candlelight Vigils and Demonstrations … Then What?
- Harnessing the Power of an Abuser to Defeat Them
- Lip Service–The Solution to Everything
- Mitt Romney, Bullies and Red Herrings
- Bullying is Completely Fine ….