Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bullies, Pink Shirts and Attaboys

Watching a particular legislator in action yesterday, taunting the government in an immature, bullying style and encouraging the same amongst her minions, caused me to think about a tweet she had issued a couple of weeks ago when she indicated that she was wearing pink to show support for the Annual Pink Shirt Anti-Bullying Day.

As I reflected on the sharp contrast between who she really appeared to be versus what she claimed to be supporting, it got me to thinking about our concerns around bullying and whether the current campaigns are effective or if we are looking in the wrong direction for a solution.

Consider these scenarios.


Teachers recognize that many examples of bullying begin in the homes of their students, but the teachers don’t / can’t do anything because:

a. Some teachers don’t want to be bothered.

b. Many teachers are overworked and can’t take on that issue in a meaningful way because of their workload.

c. Many teachers would love to do something but the law doesn’t allow them to take the action necessary.


Legislators routinely taunt and intimidate their opponents (sometimes illegally), setting a lousy role model for young people to follow.  Unfortunately given the pervasiveness of the media, the acts of our legislators are in front of our young people daily.

Social Media

Social media enables the passive-aggressive, those who don’t have the guts to say the terrible things they say in person, thus enabling and empowering them to say what they wish while hiding behind the perceived anonymity of the Internet. 

Road Rage

Driving in the safety of our vehicles allows us to gesture and scream at-will, providing an opportunity to express our road rage in the safety and comfort of our vehicle. As George Carlin once said, “Why is it that everyone driving slower than us is an idiot and everyone driving faster than us is a maniac?”.  It doesn’t leave much room for the people we aren’t judging on the road, does it? 

I am humbly reminded of an example many years ago when I was cut off by a driver but I didn’t say anything.  Suddenly a quiet voice in the backseat said “Stupid a**hole, Daddy?”.  Our greatest lessons come from children who observe us keenly and emulate accordingly.

The Church

Many churches, supposedly carrying the message of God’s love, are torn apart by cravings for power and the need to abuse others all-the-while espousing the need for us to show more love and respect to each other.

Where is it heading?

And so I find it intriguing that while we run around wearing pink shirts and promoting heart-tugging attaboys, I wonder if such actions are producing any meaningful results.  Oftentimes (not always) the awareness campaigns either do little measurable good or are actually endorsed by people who openly contradict the campaign for the rest of the year.

Which message are we likely to follow more – the one that someone lives for 24 hours or the one they live for the rest of the year?

It reminds me of an organizer of Earth Hour activities who said on the radio one day that he drives around his city in an SUV during Earth Hour to see who dares to not contribute to making a difference in our impact on the Earth.  He also didn’t notice his own hypocrisy when he stated that during Earth Hour, while his lights are out, he tapes his favorite TV programs and stays up an hour later that night to catch up.

There has to be a better way

Now in fairness, there are some great people and great organizations who ARE making a difference.  To those people, I salute their courage and congratulate them on their efforts.

Unfortunately, their difference is not attaining the critical mass they need to reach to turn the tide and for this reason, I think we are losing the war as a result.  We would be doing better in the war against bullying if more of us did something measurable, sustainable, replayable and amplifiable instead of offering a token gesture of support or awareness just in passing.

Success requires an all-in approach and with sustained effort over a lifetime.  It doesn’t happen with the purchase of a pink shirt or a few pithy tweets on one day of the year.

I think next year, I will run off a pile of pink shirts in support of bully awareness (hmmmm …. is there anyone NOT aware or NOT touched by bullying now?).

I will run off a few variations, including women’s awareness, gay awareness, immigrant awareness and the like.

I will hire homeless or battered women to distribute them.

A few corporate or celebrity endorsements will give my campaign instant credibility.

And when the campaign is over, I will send the shirts I don’t sell to a destitute village in South America.

That should cover enough feel-good causes to get me excellent media coverage and set me up to look like a “hero”.

Maybe some nice posters and a You Tube video that makes you cry would come in handy also.

Oh, I forgot. I will use a government grant to accomplish this, so that it doesn’t cost me any money to do it.

Meanwhile, the bullied will continue to suffer.

And the bullies will continue to be “hatched” where they hatch and do what they do in all walks of Life whether it be the school yard, the family home, business, media, social media, the church, government or anywhere else.

Some of the bullied will wear pink because inside they are crying out for help.

Some of the bullied will look upon the campaign and feel sadness or numbness, wondering why the cavalry never came when they needed it.  The campaign doesn’t relieve their pain and so means nothing.

And some of the bullies will wear pink and call upon the rest of us to do better while either feigning ignorance when they wish they knew where bullying stems from or espousing the fact that we are “winning the war”.

We can choose nice words ….

We can suggest inspiring actions …

But it is the measurable results that are the only thing that matter and not a pile of words and feel-good suggestions.

As the insightful George Carlin once said:

By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth.

What truths to we conceal with the attaboy approach to solving problems like bullying or anything else?

Why do you think this is ?

The scourge of things such as bullying have deep, wide and pervasive ramifications on society.

The only way to negate things like this is to make sure that the solution is equally deep, wide and pervasive …. or even more so.

What should we do about it?

When do you think we should start?

How about now?

In service and servanthood,


PS A humorous story that happened to me some years ago.  I was driving in front of a driver one day who was particularly unhappy with my interest in driving the speed limit and every time we stopped on a red light, his displeasure was obvious in the way he was gesturing at me in my rear-view mirror.

At one red light, his anger finally overcame him and he stepped out of his vehicle.  Seeing him approach me from behind, I unbuckled my seatbelt.  He yanked open my door, reached in and grabbed me.  Being a big guy (6’3”, 220 pounds) I “assisted him” as he pulled me out of my car.

Having done so, he now found himself looking up at me, realizing that he was no longer within the isolated, safe confines of his vehicle.  He was also confronted with the realization that the person he chose to intimidate was in fact very intimidating himself.

We were just two men staring at each other.  After a few moments of silence, I spread my hands out and said “Well?”.

He was speechless and quickly returned his vehicle.

Bullying when the victim is unknown, when the long term impact is unknown or in this case, when attempted from the safety of distance, is a much different animal than when the bully is confronted with the realities of the situation – present or future.

No comments:

Post a Comment