Educators and mental health experts continually stress the importance of anti-bullying agendas in schools. For children, the psychological and physical repercussions of bullying can be devastating.
What's become obvious in the face of Oprah's interview with Lance Armstrong, is that adults aren't immune to bullies either. Some grownup bullies are just a little more subtle. They don't have to use physical or in-your-face verbal assaults to wage war on their targets. They use money, the legal system and celebrity status to break down their victims.
In Rick Hampson's USA Today feature analyzing Armstrong's chances of being forgiven by the American public, he notes that Armstrong might be cut a break because "he didn't hurt anyone, unlike singer Chris Brown, who hit his girlfriend, Rihanna, or Bernard Madoff, who ruined many of his clients." No, Lance didn't beat up his girlfriend, but if the accusations against Armstrong are true, his actions against whistleblowers and truth tellers could make him their Bernie Madoff in bike shorts. Sure, he didn't steal their money, but the stories of accusers suggest he created obstacles that made them spend it to defend themselves or prevent future earnings by thwarting their success. Madoff ruined more lives, but that doesn't make Armstrong's attacks less devastating for those wrongfully targeted.
How much money and career opportunity do innocent adults lose because of disparaging comments by someone who has a public platform?
How much money do innocent people lose trying to legally defend themselves from false allegations?
How many families, including children, suffer from damaging untrue allegations that are generated to protect bullies and liars?
Only the players in this tragedy know the truth. It's pretty clear that money and celebrity status can be intoxicating. And people under this influence don't always make wise choices. We need to raise our children to become adults who recognize that. A person's value isn't positively correlated with his or her bank account. Being famous doesn't make you or your opinion more valuable, it just makes you more visible. Yes, everyone should live strong, but being kind and ethical will make you a stronger human being.