Tomorrow I give my talk on bullying. I’m nervous because, well, I’ve never done anything like this before, but also because you know that little monster of doubt that creeps in when you least expect it? Yeah, he’s here right now. Anyways, I’m going to give it my best shot, because what else can I do?
This has been a very eye-opening experience. The outreach from those wanting to help has been tremendous. Though, it’s heartbreaking to read stories of bullying, especially by those close to me. It’s also incredible to see just how much bullying affects those who have been bullied. So much so that these people still remember even the smallest details of events from years ago.
Bullying is real and it’s a major problem.
What became even more apparent throughout my research is the alarming rate of suicide in the United States. Did you know that in 2014, there were 42,733 deaths by suicide in the U.S. and it is the 10th leading cause of death? Homicide is 17th – to put that into perspective. You can learn more about suicide awareness and prevention here.
The correlation between bullying and suicide is also very alarming. This video is absolutely gut-wrenching, but the strength of the mother to speak about her son and what he went through is amazing. She sheds light on a very real problem with strength and dignity and in a way that honors her beautiful son.
We can’t look at bullying as something that isn’t harmful. We can’t brush it off and say, “Just ignore it.” No, because bullying is all around us. It’s no longer something that only happens on the playground. The internet, social media, text messaging, etc. has allowed bullying to permeate our lives no matter where we are. Kids, and even some adults, can’t get away from it. Can you imagine what that must be like to have someone incessantly trying to tear you down, and you can’t get away from it? No wonder why so many people suffer from anxiety and depression. It’s so sad. It’s something that needs to be taken far more seriously.
I recently crossed paths with someone who, in a very public way, claimed that I was suicidal. I am in no way suicidal, and anyone who knows me laughed after I told them what was said, because it is so untrue. But, here’s the problem, it’s not a laughing matter. Suicide isn’t something to joke about, to be thrown around in order to tear another person down. Suicide is something that takes a life and ruins those around them.
Imagine if I had actually been suicidal. How humiliated I would’ve been if that deep, dark part of me was exposed and used to make me look unstable and insane. How could that have affected me? Maybe I wouldn’t have been able to bear the humiliation, the pain, the betrayal, and I would have ended my precious and beautiful life. Then what? I don’t want to know or explore that, but what I do know is it’d only cause tremendous pain for everyone close to me.
But that’s the problem with bullying. Sometimes, it isn’t until something terrible happens that action is taken. We have to stop bullying now. We have to teach our kids what it means to have a sense of purpose, so that they can drown out the bullies with the goodness that’s inside of them. We have to go to extra lengths on social media to cut bullies out of our lives – block, delete, report them. Most importantly, we have to practice empathy and we have to teach it to our children. Teach our kids what it means to put themselves in another person’s shoes. If I say this about someone, how would I feel if someone said that same thing about me?
People who are empathetic and have a sense of purpose don’t bully. But, people don’t just learn that on their own. They have to be taught. Let’s start by teaching our kids what it means to be empathetic, to be kind, to have a sense of purpose. And let’s start talking about the serious repercussions of bullying, because it could literally save someone’s life.
Tomorrow, I will be talking to a group of 300 middle schoolers on what it means to have a sense of purpose. Today, I challenge you to do the same – what’s your sense of purpose? Talk to someone about it and about their’s. Let’s start lifting each other up instead of tearing one another down. Hopefully, we can someday live in a world where we don’t try to hurt one another, because we’re so fulfilled with our purpose in life.