In today’s age of social media, it is easier than ever to be a bully. We can negatively comment on a thread, send a threatening private message, or simply talk ill about each other to mutual friends based on what we have seen on social media. This year more than ever, I have read posts by friends about the ugliness they have endured, generally through electronic means. For all of our connectivity, we are not very connected to the feelings of others. The cyber bully sounds off, feels a bit of relief for a moment, and then is left alone with the phone in their hands looking for another place to spread hurt. Let’s remember, those words cut both ways. You don’t get to rant and then walk peacefully away, suddenly a ray of sunshine to the world. The negativity remains with the sender, and the reasons for the negativity are far larger than one comment or post.
Although my current career is focused largely on encouragement, I know I have been a bully. Sometimes I am an accidental bully when someone misinterprets my comment, an e-mail or a text. But I have also been an intentional bully, not treating people who are different from me very well. I have bowed to pressure to exclude certain people because I don’t want to be the uncool one who is friends with the “weirdo.” I hope I am learning from those mistakes, and I honestly believe those missteps are what make me a vigilant supporter of the underdog today.
If you were on the receiving end of “mean” this year, remember the person who hurt you is hurting far worse. As the saying goes, hurt people hurt people. The best we can do is to forgive the sender and to continue to be a light, not allowing those words and actions to negatively shape us. You could take it a step further and allow those moments to elevate you in your drive to do your best.
My daughter is experiencing some problems at school from a few older peers who don’t understand why she wears her hair short and prefers “boy” clothing. She feels sad during those encounters, but, overall, she is a bright, happy girl who loves being her own person. How she wears her hair and her personal style make her happy and comfortable. She seems to inherently understand her own comfort and happiness with her style is more important than making others comfortable with her style. Way to go, my sweet daughter! I am very proud of you.
I don’t generally make resolutions, but in 2019, I want to be inclusive and more kind. I want to think more about the person on the other end than of myself. I vow to keep unhelpful comments to myself, and to stick up for someone who needs it. It is a mean, mean world out there. Let’s make 2019 a kinder year. —Bethany
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