By: Roshanda Pratt
October is anti-bullying month. When I discovered the following video on a friend’s Facebook page, I knew I had to write about bullying. Please take a moment and watch the video before reading the rest of my post.
I am a former television news producer. I can tell you story after story of hurtful phone calls and emails from viewers. I never understood why people would take the time out of their schedule to call a news station to complain about someone’s hair, makeup, wardrobe or personality. I once took a call from a viewer who wanted to express to me her rather hateful and racist views, in hopes that I would agree. Needless to say, that conversation ended abruptly. You see, I do not, and I mean, DO NOT like bullies – especially those of the adult kind.
I have been on both ends of bullying. When I was in elementary and middle school, I was an ugly duckling. I had really bad acne, bad hair, low self esteem, and I developed faster than all my other friends. I was picked on constantly, even by those who said they were my friend. I am so grateful for a girl named Erica who still, to this day, is a dear friend. Even when she was with the “cool” crowd, she still was kind to me and never talked about me behind my back. I am not sure if she will ever understand how much her friendship meant to me during such a transformational time in my life.
Eventually, I learned I had to stand up to my bullies. That’s a good thing, right? Yes, but I also learned how to take the focus off me and in turn, point the bullies to someone else. So I then became a bully. I realize now that when you hurt, all you know how to do is hurt others. I relentlessly taunted another girl until one day, when I saw her crying. In that moment, I thought about how she must feel, and I stopped. I never wanted anyone to feel as dejected as I had for so long. Years later, I saw her. We were much older and much more mature, and I apologized to her. I knew it was the right thing to do. I made no excuses. I was honest and I apologized for my lack of kindness.
We hear a ton of stories about children bullying other children. I do not advocate that, and I constantly talk to my children about how to handle a bully. However, I think the adult bullying is even worse. Why? Because at some point, you should mature. You should understand that you don’t need to point out what people already know. For example, in the above video, the news anchor pointed out she is well aware of her weight and the health challenges it causes. There was NO need for this viewer (who by the way, does not watch the show on a frequent basis) to belittle her and point out the obvious. In my former profession I had to deal with my share of “bullies”. People who feel they are better than you and make it their mission to tell you so through their words and actions. I, however, do not subscribe to that thought. I have discovered that if you have to put others down to feel better about yourself, you really must have low self worth.
Sometimes it seems like our society has little to no regard for human life. We have more respect for animals (I’m not an animal basher) than we do for our neighbor. Our moms always told us, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” Did we forget that? What happened to having a filter? I am wondering if that viewer who sent Jennifer Livingston that email, thought for just one second about his words before hitting the send button? Words are powerful. The old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” is a lie. Words do hurt and many people are carrying around wounds from words that cut like a knife.
I applaud Mrs. Livingston for fighting back against her bully by calling him out on the air. I love the power of the media when it is used well. The best way to deal with a bully is to stand up and speak out. One of the greatest commandments given is to “Love our neighbor as we love ourselves” (Mark 12:31). Maybe if we spend a little more time loving ourselves in a healthy way, we will not have to spend time tearing someone else down.
Have you ever experienced bullying? How did you handle it? I would love to hear your story.