I hate bullying, and my tolerance for it decreases by the minute…second…nanosecond.
There are lots of definitions for bullying. My personal definition: any behavior which seeks to undermine the humanity of another person.
Bullying comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s bold. Sometimes its subtle. Sometimes it happens face-to-face, and sometimes it’s behind a screen.
In all cases, bullying is a category of behaviors that leaves another human being feeling undervalued, disrespected, and depleted.
Bullying is especially awful because its cumulative impacts can leave an individual feeling like they have no value at all.
Bullying happens in schools and on playgrounds. It also happens in dorm rooms. It happens in offices and break rooms. It happens in churches.
Sometimes it happens in public and in the light, but many times bullying happens behind closed doors. In homes. In bedrooms. In the dark.
My experience of daily bullying left me feeling worthless and ashamed. As months went by, I no longer trusted my own inner voice. I assumed I was always making mistakes. I believed that I was a fraud…and dirty…and unloveable. And it all became normal.
People who engage in bullying tendencies were almost always bullied themselves. It is a sad cycle.
The only way the cycle stops is when we come together and say: NO!
When we seeing bullying taking place, we have to speak up.
When we experience it in our own lives, we have to get out and get away.
We must support one another and advocate for people at the margins…those who are most likely to be victims of bullying.
We can absolutely pray for people who resort to bullying behaviors…but we don’t need to remain in environments where the behavior occurs. Undermining the value of another human being is wrong. In all cases. There is no scenario under which it is appropriate to bully another person or group of people.
If you are being bullied in any way, please know that you do have value. You can rebuild your life and your sense of self. Whether you are being bullied by a classmate, a relative, a stranger, a co-worker, or a partner - you do not deserve that kind of treatment. Bullying is abuse. Please find an advocate and safe person to tell. Call a hotline. Tell a trusted friend.
The light turned on for me when a doctor said: “You are a smart person. You are capable of good decisions. Someday you will be your own case study. You will use this experience, and it will help others.”
So I offer those same words here and now - to anyone who ever reads this post: You are a smart person. You have value beyond measure. You deserve to be treated with respect and kindness by all people. Life can and will get better.
If you are a person who has bullied in the past or is currently bullying: stop. Please stop cutting other people down in order to alleviate your own discomfort and pain. Please get help and know that help is available. You, too, deserve a peaceful life with mutual love and respect in all your relationships. In order to build that life, you must stop using your power to undermine the value of others. As you begin to value yourself, you will value others as well. We can build a world without bullying, manipulation, coercion, mean-spirited actions, and hurtful words. It is possible. And we are all part of the healing.
Public speaking and teaching are two of my favorite things, and I'll take just about any chance I can get to do either.
And that is the story on how I ended up speaking to 120 college student leaders about resilience. The students were in the midst of their student leader training - getting ready to welcome a boatload of students to campus. They were at the tail-end of their training.
I spent quite a few evenings and weekends working on the presentation and enjoyed the research a lot! To get into the right "mood," I listened to my favorite CD of all time. Room for Squares by John Mayer. It also happens to be the CD I listened to all the way through college when I first discovered Johnny.
Here's what I learned from the experience of speaking to a room full of college students...
Speaking to college students is not the same as speaking to confirmation students.
Speaking to college students is not the same as preaching a sermon at church.
Speaking to college students is not the same as speaking to a group of elderly column readers.
Which is to say: speaking to college students is its own unique, awesome, intimidating-as-hell, amazing, fantastic reality.
I am not yet good at it. I am average at it. At best.
But I will get better. I will learn and practice and research. I love a challenge, and I'd love to have opportunities to do this in the future. So that means I need to get better at it.
College is such a formative chapter, and resilience is fascinating topic. I especially loved getting to talk about the relationship between resilience and mistakes.
So...I learned that I have a lot more to learn! Especially when it comes to effectively communicating with college students.
I was also reminded that it's really healthy for me to do things outside my comfort zone. It's hard. And scary. And weird and uncomfortable.
I was glancing through some photos tonight and stumbled across this gem from the visit Alison and I took The Carnegie Center in New Hampton earlier this summer! It's a miniature model of a real circus scene from the early 20th century.
As I looked at it tonight, I noticed something I didn't notice when I took the photo. The camels! Camels are a very special animal to me - and whenever I see them in any form, I feel a special feeling. For me, the camel represents resilience...the ability to travel for a long, long way without a sip of water. They're also quite unique for mammals because their red blood cells are oval instead of circular. Camels also have very unique immune systems as compared to other mammals.
An interesting camel fact...they can go a long time without water. But when they DO get some water, they can drink 53 gallons in 3 minutes! They have a special feature that allows quick expansion of their insides so they don't burst.
Not to over-identify with camels...but I think I might be one. Only not with water...instead, with spiritual nourishment. I go for surprisingly long stretches without a drop, but then when I see an oasis in the distance, I gorge. No lady-like sips for me. I stuff my face with gratitude and happiness and bliss...as much as I can get in there. It's like my soul expands to make space for all the excess...and then I live off of it. For as long as needed.
Maybe someday it will be more of a steady flow for me...a drop here, a gulp there.
Or maybe I'm beginning to realize that life is all one giant sea of nourishing water...and there's always enough. It makes me wonder if perhaps I won't need to spend the rest of my life on high alert...always preparing for the next stretch of parched land.
It's a curious thought. Like living in a desert only to find out it was Eden all along.
What I know is this: I'm 53 gallons in, and I think there's room for more.