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The Story We Tell About Bullying

There is so much to be said about the tragic events that are too common in the news lately, but right now I want to talk about one topic that is consistently central to the story: bullying. And there's also a lot to say on this topic, but let's focus on one aspect; that is the story we are telling ourselves--and our culture--about bullying.

One of the common themes being put out there is the minimization of bullying, particularly when it comes to the school environment. "It's just part of being a kid"... "There's nothing you can do about it" ... "I got picked on as a kid, and I didn't turn out like that!" These may seem like rational statements to some, but from what perspective do they seem that way? Are you the adolescent who feels they have no friends? Are you the 10-year-old who's begun dreading school so much that you have symptoms like headaches and nausea? To a young person for whom each day holds the threat of physical harm, humiliation, or rejection, this kind of talk dismisses a pain that is deep and life-altering.

When a young person who lives under a cloud of isolation and ill-treatment hears their ordeal made light of in this way, it can imprint and reinforce a deeply harmful narrative into their story:

Nobody cares that you're hurting.

It's okay for you to be treated that way.

You're not worth as much as other kids.

You're alone.

Repeated often enough by the actions--and inactions--of others, these become core beliefs people hold about themselves, which change the trajectory of their lives.

So much can be affected by a little thing like how we talk about the latest bombshell in the news. The conscious effort to be mindful of others' stories, to consider different perspectives, and to hold our opinions with humility, can make a world of difference.


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