Thursday, October 21, 2010

W for Words Are Powerful

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

Or something like that. We’re all familiar with this quote, or some variation of it, but have you ever stopped to consider its meaning? It’s not true. Not at all. As a former victim of emotional abuse, which is a story for another day, I speak from experience when I say that sometimes words can hurt more than sticks and stones (or punches and kicks for that matter). Bumps and bruises eventually heal, but the power of hateful, hurtful words can leave a lasting impact that’s sometimes imperceptible to everyone but the person to whom the words were said.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to downplay physical abuse. Having lost a sister to domestic violence, I know all too well how damaging it can be. I think most people are aware of that, because it's harder to deny the hard evidence left behind by physical abuse. Fewer people seem to know and understand the damage and long term impacts of verbal/emotional abuse.

One need only look at recent news headlines to see how much words truly can hurt. There seems to be an epidemic of gay teens, and some straight teens accused of being gay, committing suicide. Words obviously hurt them. So badly, in fact, that they saw death as the only escape from their pain. They were bullied—no harassed—to death. Day in and day out, these victims suffered in silence as they were tormented by the words of others; others who’d singled them out simply because they were different. It’s disgusting and disturbing and it makes me physically ill—my stomach and heart ache as I write this.

What has the world come to? Where are the parents of these bullies? How is this being allowed to happen? How has being accused of being gay, even if you’re not, become such a horrible thing that one would end his/her life over it? I just don’t get it. Why do people care so much about the sexual preferences of others?! It shouldn’t matter! Live and let live, for crying out loud! I seriously don’t get how or why people fear and loathe homosexuals so much. I know religion plays a role, and I don’t even want to get started down that path at the risk of offending the six or so regular readers I have out there. We are all human beings. Why can’t we treat each other as such?

We, as a society, need to fix this. We can start by teaching our children that words do hurt and it’s not okay to insult, humiliate, taunt, or demean anyone. Ever. We can stand up and show support for victims, and should intervene when we witness such harassment. As adults, we need to model good behavior for children. We need to show them that it’s important to treat others with respect, to be kind, and to not fear what we don’t understand, but rather to seek out knowledge to gain better understanding.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, parents need to step up and parent. You need to know what’s going on with your kids! I don’t care whether your kid is the victim or the bully; you have a responsibility as a parent to step in. You must protect your child; you cannot rely on the school or anyone else to do it for you. If you find out your kid is a bully, it’s your responsibility to teach your child that this terrible behavior will not be tolerated and cannot continue. Sometimes you just have to step up and be the authority figure instead of the friend!

Lest anyone think I’m leaving anyone out, let me assure you that I understand that straight kids are bullied too. I get that. I’ve witnessed it, and I was a victim myself. But the reality is that gay kids and teens are more likely to commit suicide as a result of the constant harassment and torture over their sexuality, because unlike the straight kids, they cannot change the thing that makes them different.

Yep. I said it. Homosexuality is not a choice. Homosexuals are born, not made. And until people understand and accept that fact, I fear this horror will not end. How many more lives need to be cut tragically short before people get it? I don’t care what you think your bible says, and I don’t care what your political party tells its sheeple to believe. You mustn't give in to the fear mongering. People are dying. This has to stop.

I don’t know what the answer is. I wish I did, but I don’t. All I know is that life is hard enough as it is. There is no good reason that any one individual should need to try to make the lives of others any harder. I'd like to believe that we're all more evolved than that, but maybe I'm naïve and too idealistic. Let’s all try to honor the simplicity of the golden rule, shall we? Treat others as you’d like to be treated. I think it really can be that simple.
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  1. I agree with this post 100%.

    I just don't understand how this bullying epidemic has gotten so out of control. How have parents let this happen?

    When I was a kid my mother was there, in my face, all the time. Seriously...all.the.time. She knew what I was doing every minute of every day...who I was with, where I was, what was happening.

    Also...the moms all talked to each other. If someone was getting picked on or someone was being mean...the moms all found out about it and there was hell to pay. If I ever misbehaved, my mom kicked my ass...but that kind of thing was very rare. I just didn't even dare think about it.

    I'm not saying life was all peachy keen and all the kids loved each other and were nice all the time. There was a fair amount of mean-ness happening. After all, kids are kids and they can be really mean. But it wasn't this kind of relentless, non-stop harrassment. It wasn't was actually pretty tame.

    College was amazing. Everyone was different and those differences were embraced and celebrated, instead of ridiculed. I wish everyone could have had the college experience I had.

    Sadly, my school was just a small microcosm inside of NYC, where the world is just a little more liberal. Hopefully, more people will start to think this way soon.

  2. It should be that simple, and I really don't understand why some people find that so difficult.
    I agree that parents need to step up and parent, but the unfortunate thing is that often bullies learn their behaviour from their parents.
    It is so important to let your kids know that they can talk to you about anything, because they often feel like they have no one they can confide in.
    I really don't know how any of us get through it unscathed.

  3. I'm right there with you...I don't get why some people are so darn obsessed with the sexuality of others! and I am going to say it not caring who I offend, religious folks should be the MOST understanding and accepting of it, in my opinion. Yet, it is often just the opposite.

    While I was student teaching, I watched the kids playing and I even stepped in just when kids weren't being nice to each other!...I cannot fathom how teachers can miss bullying or not step in when they do witness it. Some do and it's just not enough, but I know from personal experience, many teachers don't think it's their place or problem or they don't take it seriously.

    I think all parents, teachers and bystanders in general all need to step up and stop idly standing by...I know some say they don't know, but we all can choose to be proactive in anything that we choose to!

  4. So true! Kids learn what their parents model, and many times those parents are just as bad if not worse. I agree with you--it's tremendously important for kids to be able to trust their parents. If there's mutual trust and respect, an open and honest relationship exists, and the child feels comfortable talking to the parent about ANYTHING. And that's SOOOOOO important. It IS a wonder any of us survived childhood, isn't it?!

  5. I totally agree with you on the religious folks. Many times they are the most unaccepting, which makes no sense to me when you consider that religion is supposed to be about loving and supporting others.

    Good for you for stepping in when you needed to!! I think teachers most definitely need to take it seriously. They need to be a trusted ally and source of support. I can't believe a teacher wouldn't think it was his/her problem to deal with bullying--that's crazy!

    I agree with you! All people--no matter if they know the kids or not--need to step in when they see or hear harassment and bullying taking place. We all have a choice on whether or not to get involved, and we should choose to standup. Complacence and the "it's not my place" mentality doesn't help.

  6. I realised the other day that there's going to be something wrong with society right up until the point where people don't have to "come out" - because right up until that point, there's a presumption built in to the whole thing that it's "normal" or "natural" to be heterosexual and that you have to make some kind of announcement if you're gay or bi. It annoys me. Best not get me started ;)

  7. Kudos ladycakes! I've been MIA and I've come back to catch up on your blog.

    What I've found is that parents of bullies were bullies themselves when they were younger and in school (and also as adults). This behavior is taught and encouraged and it's disgusting.

    Glad you are well,

  8. Very good point, Rachel. I long for the day when "coming out" doesn't have to be a big deal.

  9. So true, Katie! Kids learn from their parents, and it is disgusting to encourage bullying or even just to downplay it that it's "normal" or okay in some way. It's just not!


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