This week I read two stories in relation to bullying. The first was about a young, ridiculously fit mother of three. She posted, in her moment of triumph, a picture of her 8 month post partum body. She was surrounded by her three adorable little boys and created the simple caption, “What’s your excuse”?
This garnered her major attention. A lot of it was negative. For me, it was funny, really. I read the headline about this ‘controversial’ picture before I knew what the hullabaloo was about and wondered what could possibly be so upsetting. Upon reading the article, I discovered that this woman was being accused of being a great big bully by ‘fat shaming’ others. (Please note, I was probably nursing my 4 month old while scarfing down a chocolate bar-because that’s how I roll. I still didn’t find it offensive.) Ironically, it would seem this woman is experiencing major bullying herself now. Is it just me, or doesn’t that wreak of hypocrisy?
Then, there was the story about a young woman who was bullied by what probably seemed like everyone around her, even by her ex-best friend. This, stemming from pernicious gossip over a boy. The abuse was so incessant, so inescapable, she found the tallest building she could gain access to and jumped. She was twelve years old.
I’ve been scratching my head all week, trying to equate the two. How can these two situations be the same?
First, we have a woman who, through hard work and a boatload of discipline, accomplished something pretty incredible. Good grief, it’s awesome! By the time I squeeze into my size 8 jeans, (with or without actually zipping them up) I’m ready to call it a victory. The fact that she took her goals a step further and actually accomplished them deserves credit.
Don’t we all, having reached that proverbial peak previously unattainable, all kinda want to make like Katy Perry and ROAR? It isn’t about making anyone else feel shame. It’s about that brilliant moment when we’ve tasted a morsel of our own potential. No one was targeted by the caption on her picture. Her question was general, to anyone who was willing to internalize it.
Second, we have a young, impressionable child, in the throes of adolescence. This is arguably the most awkward time of a girl’s life. Chances are, she made some of the same silly, embarrassing mistakes most of us made back then. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, she became a moving target. She dealt with a near constant bombardment of emotional and verbal abuse by her peers.
Truly, we’ve all experienced the barbs of hurtful things others have done/said to us. Once, I had a guy ‘friend’ tell me my only assets were my breasts. Yeah. That one was devastating. Telling me that didn’t necessarily make him a bully, it just made him a jerk. (Gratefully, I was old enough to recover from such a betrayal of friendship.)
So how are the two situations the same?
Quite simply, they are not.
The difference here is this child was directly and intentionally made to feel worthless on a constant basis. On purpose. This is bullying. Reading a caption that may hit a little too close to home is not. Perhaps it could have been construed as insensitive, maybe even rude to some. I can’t determine that. What I can determine is that these are polarized.
Perhaps I’m a little bitter about this. But before anyone accuses me of not understanding what it’s like, let me tell you about my baby brother.
He is the face of bullying.
This child was subjected to years of hateful, vindictive verbal and emotional abuse. We grew up on a small military base in Utah and he was different. He thought differently, behaved differently and no one knew quite what to do about it. Back then, (Greeeeeeat! Now I’m sounding like a dinosaur) there weren’t diagnoses to explain why a kid behaved so ‘strangely’.
So naturally, everyday he went to elementary school knowing he wouldn’t have a friend in the world. Everyday. If anyone were to speak to him it was to intentionally make him feel like crap. Inside and outside his classroom, he lived in a world with something called ‘Danny Germs’. At first blush, it seems kinda funny. But when it went on and on and no one would touch him without theatrics; when his mother was reduced to sobs because she was completely powerless to stop it, it became seriously unfunny. He was in Junior High when my parents finally received orders for an overseas assignment. One of the major reasons for their relief in getting out of there was knowing he would get a break from the torture.
While he has moved on with his life, he still bares scars, deep ones.
So what’s my point in all of this?
In my opinion, we are lessening the real, dangerous incidences of bullying by labeling anything that makes us feel badly as such. I believe, that we need to ask ourselves a couple of questions before we decide whether or not we are indeed victims of bullying:
Is it direct and intentional?
Is this a common occurrence or an isolated event when another individual is being a complete dirtbag?
Is this an instance of public humiliation due to a particular trait that makes a person different?
Am I missing anything, dear reader? Is there something you would add? I would really like your thoughts on this. In the meantime, I encourage you, when faced with such a situation, consider whether it’s truly an issue needing to be addressed or one that, as difficult as it may be, may require you to take a deep breath and pull up your big kid underwear.
Lastly, it may be difficult sometimes, but know this, karma is universal. There’s a certain kind of misery that comes to a bully. What a pity such a person is.