Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bullying begins with adults

A couple of weeks ago, I was part of a candlelight vigil to bring attention to bullying and the suicides of children and young people who are gay or perceived to be gay. Bullying is much a part of our culture, and it's a reflection of the behavior of adults. Lori came across this commentary from a blog called Momastery by a mom named Glennon, who describes the title of her blog thusly:
"I chose “Momastery” because a monastery is a sacred place, apart from the world, where a seeker retreats to figure out what matters and catch glimpses of God. That’s exactly what motherhood is like to me."
Here is the post about bullying and I hope we can take it to heart in our work, in our churches and in our homes:
A Mountain I'm Willing to Die On
Along with every other concerned mama, I’ve been watching America’s response to the bullying related suicides closely. People seem to be quite shocked by the cruelty that’s happening in America’s schools. I’m confused by their shock. I’m also concerned about what’s not being addressed in their proposed solutions.
The acceptable response seems to be that we need to better educate students and teachers about what bullying is and how to react appropriately to it. This plan is positive, certainly. But on its own, it seems a little like bailing frantically without looking for the hole in the boat through which the water is leaking.
Each time one of these stories is reported, the tag line is: “kids can be so cruel.” This is something we tend to say. Kids these days, they can be so cruel. But I think this is just a phrase we toss around to excuse ourselves from facing the truth. Because I don’t think kids are any crueler than adults. I just think kids aren’t quite as adept yet at disguising their cruelty.
Yesterday I heard a radio report that students who are most likely to be bullied are gay kids, overweight kids, and Muslim kids.
I would venture to guess that at this point in American history, gay adults, overweight adults, and Muslim adults feel the most bullied as well.
Children are not cruel. Children are mirrors. They want to be “grown-up.” So they act how grown-ups act when we think they’re not looking. They do not act how we tell them to act at school assemblies. They act how we really act. They believe what we believe. They say what we say. And we have taught them that gay people are not okay. That overweight people are not okay. That Muslim people are not okay. That they are not equal. That they are to be feared. And people hurt the things they fear. We know that. What they are doing in the schools, what we are doing in the media - it’s all the same. The only difference is that children bully in the hallways and the cafeterias while we bully from behind pulpits and legislative benches and one liners on sit-coms.
And people are sensitive. People are heart-breakingly sensitive. If enough people tell someone over and over that he is not okay, he will believe it. And one way or another, he will die.
So how is any of this surprising? It’s quite predictable, actually. It’s trickle-down cruelty.
I don’t know much. But I know that each time I see something heartbreaking on the news, each time I encounter a problemoutside, the answer to the problem is inside. The problem is AWAYS me and the solution is ALWAYS me. If I want my world to be less vicious, then I must become more gentle. If I want my children to embrace other children for who they are, to treat other children with the dignity and respect every child of God deserves, then I had better treat other adults the same way. And I better make sure that my children know beyond a shadow of a doubt that in God’s and their father’s and my eyes, they are okay. They are fine. They are loved as they are. Without a singleunless. Because the kids who bully are those who are afraid that a secret part of themselves is not okay.

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