When I was given the opportunity to write this piece, the subject of bullying was fresh in my mind. Just weeks earlier a student at my former high school leapt to his death from the top of a building during lunch time, in front of his fellow students; immediately came the debate of whether or not he was bullied. I cannot say for sure, but there is a reason that bullying was the first thing on everyone's mind. These tragedies have become far too common in our country.
When I think of bullies, the first thing that comes to my mind is that a bully is someone who is overcompensating for low self-esteem or self-worth; however, studies have suggested that the opposite is true. In the '80s and '90s there was a big push for parents to promote self-esteem in their kids. Have we taken this too far? Are we teaching our kids that believing in oneself means belittling others? Is this what they are learning by the way that we treat others?
Dictionary.com has two definitions of "self-esteem." The first is "respect for or a favorable opinion of oneself," and the second is "an unduly high opinion of oneself; vanity." The second definition seems to be the more accurate one today. The term should probably be changed to "selfish-esteem." We'll do whatever it takes to make ourselves look better. Just take a look at message boards across the net. There is an unbelievable amount of hate being posted on these sites. In our political races the candidate who wins is the one who makes his opponent look the worst. In professional sports, teams are dominated by one or two power players. In the corporate world people throw their fellow employees under the bus to get a promotion, and at our schools kids harass each other for being different.
But how do we change this? Bullying is a problem in our culture. It's going to be hard to create a law that demands that people be nice to each other. Although it's good that there is awareness being raised at schools, could national awareness programs turn into this generation's DARE program?
I believe that like all cultural changes, this one needs to start in our own homes. If there's one thing I've learned in life, it's that the only way to change people is to lead by example. Just as the culture of bullying has spread, so can the culture of love and acceptance. Let's make sure our kids grow up seeing us being nice to the people around us. It's one thing to talk about it, but let's make sure that our kids witness us showing love to the people who are different from us. Let's help people who are less fortunate than we are. Give your kids hugs every day. Tell them that you love them and that they are special.
Let's do it for ourselves, as well. People who give to others live longer and are happier and healthier. And giving doesn't just mean money; it also means time and love.
Another thing I've learned about people is that we all have gifts, and we all have problems. Judging other people is just a coping method we use to make us feel better about our own issues. We need to celebrate our differences, help each other with our problems, and nurture our strengths.
This doesn't start with someone else; this starts with you. Don't wait for the government to fix it. Don't think that the problem is going to be solved in our schools. Take action in your own life. If you are a lover of people in every way, I guess you are exempt from this article. But I'm willing to bet that you aren't. We can all make improvements in our lives. As Americans we have the freedom to make this better or worse. Freedom is an amazing gift that we were born with, but it is also a responsibility. What happens to other responsibilities in our lives if we neglect them? If you don't do the laundry, you don't have clean clothes. If you don't go to work, you don't have money to pay the bills, and if you don't love and respect the people around you, you will not get love and respect in return. This goes for our children at school, for our colleagues in the workplace, for everyone in our social circles, and for all of us as a country when it comes to how we interact with other countries. Bullying is a problem at every level.
I'm confident that as human beings we are resilient. We have a way of resolving our problems even if we have some setbacks along the way. Let's be positive. Let's stop being so selfish. Let's change this because we want to and because we truly love each other. With the suicide rate of kids on the rise, we need to take it upon ourselves to be more aware of what's really going on. Take notice if your child seems more introverted than usual. Ask questions, and let him or her know that you are there to help. Teach your kids that being a silent bystander is just as bad as bullying. We need to come together and put an end to this epidemic.