Bullies...I hate them.
Have you ever been bullied? I was bullied as a kid. Seventh grade for me was absolutely brutal. I would come home every day crying to my mom about the cruelty of my peers who either treated me like I didn't exist or found new and creative ways to emotionally and mentally torment me. I already had a self-esteem problem as it was so the bullying and my mother's response only served to make me feel like I had done something to deserve it. She sent me to a shrink (which I resented) and even worse...in an attempt to change things for the better, she invited my entire class over to my house for a surprise party. It gets worse...it was a sleep over. I took my mom aside shortly after I arrived home to discover all my arch enemies leering at me behind her back in triumph when I shrieked "What were you thinking?!!" They had plenty of ammunition with which to torture me after that night, I can tell you.
It's funny, even though I am in my early 50's; I can easily remember the pain of being bullied and how it permanently changed my self-image for the worse. I can't remember most of my former classmates names, not even people I considered friends but I can sure remember the name of my two chief tormentors. For years I swore to myself that if I ever ran into them on the street I would bust them in the chops and ask questions later.
Bullying has become an epidemic problem. Despite the "zero tolerance" it has gotten worse not better and now it has all the social media to help spread the "wealth" around. At least when I was bullied back in 1972 it remained a localized event. Nowadays, kids are bullied not only in person but their names are slandered all over the internet where libel goes viral in a matter of seconds. Kids today don't stand a chance; no wonder they are committing suicide in record numbers!
Why are children so intentionally cruel to one another? Why do so many behave like savage animals when it comes to their peers? What can be done to fix this seemingly insurmountable problem?
It wasn’t always this way but it seems to be on the rise. Why? Many (like me) would argue that it is the natural consequence of having abandoned moral teachings based upon the Bible in our schools. Since the Bible and God are considered persona non grata in the public square, how can we, as authors who have faith, share the concepts of compassion, mercy, honesty, perseverance in a way that communicates these values to our young people without coming off sounding “preachy”?
I think Bill Bennett, the former Education Czar had it right when he compiled and produced The Book of Virtues. It contained stories that exemplified all of the above listed virtues in such a way as to compel the reader to feel compassion for the poor Little Match Girl and The Little Mermaid. Who hasn’t watched the film “Rudy” starring Sean Astin, and not found themselves cheering him on when he finally achieved his ultimate dream of playing for Notre Dame after years of persevering?
These are all wonderful stories that have much to teach us. They have a way of winding into our hearts and planting a seed there that when mature, can blossom and grow a young person into someone who has compassion, who can persevere through trials, be courageous in the face of danger, and do what is right when no one is looking. Well written stories not only entertain and touch us deeply; they can change our worldview.
This is where inspirational fiction authors can play an important role; especially in our nation’s schools. That is what I have sought to do in my own books.
Have you ever been bullied? Have you ever bullied someone else? Please share.