from bullied to bold - teaching my sons to stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves
i was bullied in high school. not the big time stuff you hear about in the news but enough that it made me never forget it. and enough that i knew i would never stand for it again.
in my life or in the life of anyone i know.
i was a senior in high school. taking an easy class the last semester just to get an easy grade. he was a senior too. a celebrated football player. someone i had known since middle school.
someone i thought was my friend.
i don't know why he did it. i think maybe he did it to be cool. or to prove his power. or just because he could. but one day-out of the blue-i became his target.
he made fun of the way i looked. he made fun of what i wore. he made fun of what i said.
everyone around us heard it. everyone smiled or laughed.
and everyone - including myself - let it go on.
until the end of the year.
i don't remember anyone trying to defend me. i don't remember anyone trying to change the subject. i don't remember anyone even acknowledging anything was wrong.
i only remember hating that class. i hated going there. i hated that someone who used to be a friend turned into someone i didn't like. and i hated that for some reason he didn't like me.
high school was hard enough without having him make it harder. i had always been shy growing up and this just intensified it. i already questioned everything about myself. i never felt pretty. i never felt good enough.
his insults just pushed me further into that corner and kept me there. to him i was insignificant. and that's who i became to me.
i believed i didn't belong. i believed i wasn't good enough. i believed there was something wrong with me.
and his bullying just made me believe that everyone else must believe it too.
my mistake was that i never told anyone about it. but i was too embarrassed. and i guess i hoped it would go away. but it didn't. though school ended, his comments followed me for years. from the outside it looked like i had it all together, but on the inside my self esteem was officially destroyed.
there weren't enough compliments or encouragement in the world that could save me.
and when things went wrong, there was nothing that could convince me that i still wasn't that girl in high school who wasn't good enough. nothing that could convince me that i was that girl who didn't belong.
i searched for praise. craved attention. needed to know that everyone liked me.
it was an endless cycle. and one i barely broke.
everything built up until i was done.
and it's only through the grace of God that i'm alive today.
because He was the only one who could take a broken girl and make her whole again.
but not all stories end this way. and not all people end up being okay. because some who are done with everything actually go through with it. they end up killing themselves.
and that's not acceptable to me. that anyone gets to a place where they feel that death is better than life because of the cruelty of others.
that anyone feels the only way out is to end it.
to be done with it all because they feel all alone.
i know there are more people out there like me. people who have been bullied and never said a word. people who didn't find their strength until later in life.
the silent survivors.
but too much of it is still going on in this world. and those of us who have been there should be willing to stand up for those who haven't learned to do it for themselves.
i read a statistic that said children as young as 8 are killing themselves because of bullying. and that suicide is one of the leading causes of death among children under the age of 14.
those statistics should be unacceptable. TO EVERYONE. no one should think it's ok for kids to be dying because of the cruelty of others. no one should think it's not important. no one should think it's not serious.
no one should be arrogant enough to think that those who are bullied just need to stand up for themselves. it is not weak to ask for or to need help. "Two are better than one. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves." Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
when my sons were old enough to understand, i gave them three rules to live by. two of those rules apply to bullying:
#1 : never bully someone
#2 : never stand by and let someone else be bullied.
my boys (now 14 and 8) know that this means....
don't ever bully someone.
don't ever think that you're cooler, or smarter or better than someone else. don't ever think that making fun of someone or insulting them is acceptable. because it's not. EVER.
and don't everstand by and let someone else be bullied.
to me, being a bystander is just as bad as being the bully themselves. because the person being bullied needs to know that they're not alone. that not everyone is against them. the person being bullied needs to know that they have someone who will speak up for them when they can't speak up for themselves.
my oldest son asked me once, "but what if i stand up for someone and then i start getting picked on too?" good question. and one that most ask and then decide to never get involved because they're worried about the answer.
but we can't worry about the answer. if we worry about the answer, then we'll never get involved in anything. we'll never speak out. we'll never stand up.
we'll never help.
we'll be like those people we see on the news who walk past someone who is lying in the road hurt because they're too afraid to stop for fear of what could happen to them.
but if we don't help...who will?
like the Samaritan in the Bible who stopped to help the man who was beaten and robbed. he wasn't the only person who saw him, but he was the only person who helped him. others passed by. others crossed the street to pretend they didn't see. others didn't want to get involved.
that's not what i want to teach my children. that's not who i want my children to grow up to be. i want them to be bold. and courageous. and willing to stand up for those who - for whatever reason- can't stand up for themselves.
i want them to know my story. and to hear my pain. and to want to help those who are helpless.
no matter what some people say, bullying is not a "rite of passage". it's not "all fun and games." it's not "no big deal."
bullying is serious.
and people, especially children, are killing themselves because of it.
i'm not ok with that.
i'll never be ok with that.
and i don't want my boys to be ok with that either.
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