“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.