We can all do it. We can all help. It’s not necessary to be a teacher or a parent or a community activist to take a bite out of bullying.
And it doesn’t require campaigns or coordinators, money or marketing.
It takes a smile.
It takes believing in somebody and letting them know.
It takes a kind word or a friendly pat on the back.
Anti-bullying efforts are to be lauded.
It’s great so many people are putting so much energy into stopping something that is so harmful.
But when it doesn’t work, we have to come at it in a different way.
“When it doesn’t work” is not the most upbeat way to put this, I know.
Some are hoping it will work, some are thinking I should at least have said “if” it doesn’t work, as that implies there is a possibility that it will work.
But I’ve been a kid, I’ve had kids, I’ve been in the halls, I’ve heard about the halls, I’m an adult, I’m around other adults.
And there is still bullying.
So yes, somebody needs to keep trying to stop it, but the rest of us can do something else: build immunity - or at least strengthen resistance - to it.
Those of us who were or are bullied and want to help others who might face the same, can benefit from thinking along two lines:
First, ask: What might be behind the actions of the bully?
There are lots of experts on the first question and I’m not one of them, but from my observations I’d say people bully either for attention or because they’ve experienced it themselves.
Some, tragically, have been bullied in their own homes and know no differently.
They need empathy, even as they are taught better ways to interact with those around them.
But far too many kids and adults consider it a chance to be the center attention.
You remember the young days when you’d insult the person you deep down liked just to get him or her to notice you?
It still happens.
And because we seem to worship the clever but nasty comments of comedians and commentators, some may think their own clever, nasty comments will get them a degree of positive attention.
We can’t let it.
We’ve got to stop laughing.
When an 81-year-old movie star doesn’t leave her home for three days because she felt bullied when presenting at the Academy Awards, it’s not funny.
We’ve got to stop criticizing and start complimenting. And sincerely.
You’ve seen it a million times in movies, books, dramas, maybe your own life.
A parent, a coach, a sibling, a teacher believes in you.
That’s all it takes. Someone Р just maybe one is enough Р who likes you, you has confidence in you, who tells you.
I heard one man speak recently of a time when he was criticized by two adults but then praised by a third.
The comments of the first two made him want to quit. The words of the third made it possible for him to continue.
While some bravely take on the quixotic task of stopping bullies, we can all take on the challenge of making all around us bully-proof.
It doesn’t matter your age or your education or your politics. Just the size of your heart.