Bullying is Wrong . . . for Kids and Adults

November 4th, 2013

Google the word “bullying” this past week and you’re immediately struck by two stories.

In the first, a 12-year-old girl is described as jumping to her death after being subjected to severe online bullying by two other girls.  One of those girls, also 12-years-old, was a former close friend of the victim.

The second story involves Miami Dolphins offensive lineman, Jonathan Martin, who abruptly left the team after experiencing what is also described as “bullying” at the hands of his teammates.

As the story is evolving, it’s clear that Martin was subjected to very aggressive treatment since his rookie year in the NFL.  This includes being given the nickname “Big Weirdo” by his teammates.  Martin is a graduate of Stanford University with a degree in Classics.  I suppose to most NFL players who majored in Recreational Management this does indeed seem “weird.”

The event leading to Martin’s departure occurred last week when he arrived in the team dining hall to eat and all the players stood up and moved refusing to dine with him.  At that point, evidently Martin had enough and threw his tray on the ground and walked out.  He hasn’t returned since.

If you hadn’t been reading closely, you might have gotten the two stories confused since the idea of refusing to eat lunch with someone in such a dramatic fashion sounds like something 12-year-olds might do. No, this stunt was pulled evidently by 12-year-old minds masquerading in grown men’s bodies.

What’s worse about all of this is that professional athletes are constantly being touted in some circles as “role models.”  Unfortunately, only a handful of these individuals merit that designation. The rest are people you’d be wise to keep away from your children.

Yesterday, I heard quite a few political and sports commentators trying to play the “what’s all the fuss” card.  Their basic message to victims like Martin was essentially “buck up.”

I think they are confusing two distinct issues.

I do agree that we can’t keep coddling children (and adults for that matter).  Not everyone deserves a trophy just for showing up.  Constructive criticism is a good thing.  People who object to that, I believe, should indeed “buck up.” So the idea of getting a little thicker skin isn’t a bad thing.

Being able to tolerate mental and emotional abuse is something else entirely.  In my book, it’s just the other side of the abuse coin.  I don’t believe we’d all think physically beating someone should be tolerated and that a person who objects obviously just isn’t tough enough. That’s stupid.  Encouraging mental abuse is equally wrong.

Back when my oldest son was in Middle School, he was bullied by one particular boy.  It got so ridiculous that we finally went to the head of the school to complain.  She suggested my son discuss what was going on with the school counselor.  One comment the counselor made stuck with me and my son to this day.

She asked my son to put himself in the bully’s shoes.  “What must he be thinking?  What was driving him to do these things?”

That sort of thinking needs to change.  It sort of goes along with the excuse I hear some parents make when their child is running wild in a store and clearly out of control.  It’s not the child or the parent’s fault.

“He hasn’t had his nap yet,” they’ll tell you as items come crashing to the floor.

Fast forward years later and that same kid is involved in an armed robbery.  I wonder what the excuse is then.  Did he just miss his nap?

Clearly our culture is messed up right now.  We make excuses for bad behavior and we tell victims of bad behavior that they obviously just need to toughen up.

With social media the norm in human relationships these days, we’d better get these priorities straightened out or someday parents will be reading Lord of the Flies to their kids as a quaint old bedtime story since reality will seem much worse.

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