I've had the opportunity to overhear (not eavesdrop) on a few conversations lately regarding bullying. Without unpacking all of the minutia of those discussions, the long and short of it from folks in my generation, and those ahead of mine, seems to be somewhat disconnected from the current narrative coming from those in education or working with children and/or students on a regular basis.
The typical statements include, "We had bullies at my school, but we never had to have a program to tell us how to deal with it." Or, "I don't understand why we have to keep hearing about this all the time. Kids are kids - bullying is a part of growing up."
I want to offer just a few counter points to these views to help bridge the gaps for those who, like me at one time, have a difficult time grasping what's "new" with bullying.
1 - We are right in the middle of the "trophy" generation.
The Millennials, or Generation Y, have been told since birth that they are exceptional. Every team member gets a trophy in sports. The lines between those who excel at something and those who do not are increasingly blurred. I'm not saying that's necessarily wrong; it just can't be ignored that this generation is being told they can do anything and that they will be great at it. When bullies confront - their message is quite the contrary.
2 - We celebrate the smallest achievement yet we value life, itself, less.
I don't want to be political AT ALL - that's not the driver here. But the fact is we have lessened the value of life in the past generation more than ever before. The voice of the unborn has been completely lost to the point that terminating an unborn life seems an acceptable/alternative contraceptive. The relativism permeating our theological views suggests that there is no morality, a view that leads to no "wrong or right" which, ultimately, means you can do whatever you want. If I value life that's fine for me; if you do not that's fine for you. It violates the overarching moral law that lives in us that tells us, deep down, that there is such thing as right and wrong. Life is of the utmost value. We just do not treat it as such.
3 - Playground fights have been replaced by weapons and blanket judgment.
Back in the day when a couple of kids had an argument it was often settled in a fight during school on the playground or in the bathroom...or right after school in the parking lot. Today more students are bringing weapons to school and when pushed to their breaking point, they lash out at a group rather than an individual. Again, I would revisit the fact that life has become less valuable - to the extent that when students are troubled they do not value the life of the one causing their pain more than the need to equalize (in their minds) the pain they have felt with retribution in the highest form imaginable to them.
4 - The issue is, seldom, the issue
I can't deny that I agree with some of statements I have heard about bullying because it has, truly, happened to all of us in some form. I remember all to well the young man I most feared, and hated, during and well after high school. It was nearly two decades after my high school graduation, though, that I learned what this young man's childhood was like. He lacked the caring family that I had and, in fact, lived in an abusive environment that I could not possibly relate to. The pain driving him, and those like him today, was very real and inescapable. My hatred for him has turned to compassion and forgiveness...a posture I'm certain Christ would have had me adopt a lifetime ago for this troubled soul. Sure, it's not just an abusive home that leads to bullying. But you can bet that the pain that is the source of the rage in bullies does not completely rest in their bullying target(s).
5 - Social media makes bullying available 24/7
When my generation struggled with bullying, at least we had a few hours of peace when we were away from school. Today, students are so connected digitally that the bullying they experience is not limited to school hours or those who are present to witness their humiliation. Cell phones are at the ready to record every dehumanizing action and the slurs that accompany the Twitter, Vine, YouTube, and Facebook videos are willing to keep the verbal and written punches flying around the clock.
This is far from an exhaustive list on the nature of bullying and conveys my opinion on the matter - not facts I've gleaned from years of training on the subject. My hope, though, is that parents and grandparents of this generation can get a glimpse of how the choices we have made on behalf of the future (the Millennials) have made a contribution to what we are experiencing with bullying. Bullying today is not what it was in my generation - it's worse. And my generation helped, albeit unintentionally, to make it that way.
If there's anything I can pray about for you or your family - please let me know. Also, if your child is struggling with bullying please check out the Stop Bullying Website and seek out a meeting with your school counselor.