Want to hear the biggest lie in the history of the English Language?
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
You think I’m hyperbolizing this? “The biggest lie in the history of the English language?” This is a Presidential election year, for cryin’ out loud!
Words can hurt. Words can harm. Words can kill. Words can make you wish you were dead.
Look, I have a passionate love affair with words. I love words more than anything. Words are my closest friends.
That hasn’t always been the case.
Once upon a time, words hated me and I hated words. Forget the sticks and stones, some of my deepest scars are from words. The only deeper scar I own is the physical one from when my gallbladder was removed.
While I was never physically bullied, words and insults were hurled at me like shards of broken glass.
I remember one morning in the Eastwood Middle School band room in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I was in the eighth grade and the classroom was unsupervised at this time.
That was perhaps my hardest year of school. I had undergone surgery before that school year started because my adenoids (which I originally had removed when I was 5) had somehow grown back. At the time, this damaged my hearing so much that I was partially deaf. My speaking voice hadn’t started to drop. This was around the time my weight problem started. My head was deemed as abnormally large. And I had no friends.
In other words, I was a sitting duck for bullies to take free shots at me.
I’d been taking this for years. But this particular morning was the closest I’d ever come to snapping.
Two future felons of America started yakking about me. I ignored them (or rather, pretended not to hear them) until one of them turned his aim directly at me.
The ringleader asked me “Yo, what size bra you wear?” He turns to his accomplice and they start laughing uproariously.
I had been putting up with his abuse all year. For the life of me, I don’t know what caused me to do this. It was the closest I’d ever come before or since to being in a fist fight.
I got in his face. “What was that?” I yelled with everything I had.
Ren and Stimpy (no insult intended to the beloved cartoon from the 90s) just started laughing harder. Common sense prevailed and I sat down.
I’m a highly-intelligent grown man with reason, logic, and altitude. I get it; their words didn’t kill me. They only made me stronger. They helped me to develop the sharp wit and sense of humor which is a great deal of pride for me.
This, I say as present-day me. 13-year-old me didn’t have that perspective.
Bullying is a severe problem in this world. It’s dangerous. It’s ugly and it is literally killing people.
To me, the most disturbing aspect of the bullying epidemic is this: the victims are becoming statistics. Look at people who pull off school shootings. Many times they’re bullying victims. People who are bullied regularly commit suicide in high numbers.
But for every bullying-related story that gets publicity, there are thousands that go unreported.
October is bullying prevention month. The question I have is why are these 31 days different than the other 334? We must do better. We must expect more out of each other to put a stop to bullying.
Parents, be on the lookout for these signs in your children:
- Are your kids withdrawn?
- Do they have healthy self-esteem?
- Do they have supportive friends?
- Do your kids dread or fear going to school?
These are just a few of many things you can look out for. And I’m not saying these things point to a bullied kid for sure, but they could.
Also, please teach your children to be on the lookout if they believe a classmate is being bullied.
- Teach your kids to tell a grown up if they suspect something is going on.
- Teach them that bullying can’t be tolerated or accepted.
As always, you can reach out to me on my website: team-ryan.team. Follow me on twitter at twitter.com/ryanhallwrites. Or shoot me an email at [email protected].
Make no mistake, I’m not talking about good-natured ribbing. Tearing down another person just because you can – that’s bullying.
In a time when we expect less and less from each other, we should expect more and more. It takes each and every one of us to put a stop to this.
There is no place in a civilized society for a bully.
Photo by Thomas Ricker