Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bullies, Politicians, Me. Same same?

Wikipedia defines it as " a form of aggressive behavior manifested by the use of force or coercion to affect others, particularly when the behavior is habitual and involves an imbalance of power."


It is a national epidemic. Take a look at these horrifying statistics:

• Over half, about 56 percent, of all students have witnesses a bullying crime take place while at school.

• A reported 15 percent of all students who don't show up for school report it to being out of fear of being bullied while at school.

• Along that same vein, about one out of every 10 students drops out or changes schools because of repeated bullying.

• One out of every 20 students has seen a student with a gun at school.

• Some of the top years for bullying include 4th through 8th graders in which 90 percent were reported as victims of some kind of bullying.

• Other recent bullying statistics reveal that 54 percent of students reported that witnessing physical abuse at home can lead to violence in school.

• Among students of all ages, homicide perpetrators were found to be twice as likely as homicide victims to have been bullied previously by their peers.

• There are about 282,000 students that are reportedly attacked in high schools throughout the nation each month.

And this fact: Suicide continues to be one of the leading causes of death among children under the age of 14.

I grew up the only child of a single mom. Money was scarce. Still, I don't remember feeling "different" until Junior High. That's when clothes and shoes and purses and backpacks started to matter. In high school, the bag I took to tennis tournaments had to double as my basketball bag, and girls - teammates no less - made fun of it. I hated getting in trouble, so I didn't break rules - didn't drink or swear or smoke. And some people made fun of that. What I took away from that experience is that kids are mean. They always have been, probably always will be. I saw and heard other kids being teased. I probably engaged in teasing. But not to the extreme level that exists today.

The rise of cyber/social media has taken this kind of teasing to a higher, more critical level. it is SO very easy to send a nasty text, to join in when others are on Facebook slamming someone. It is remote and removed. You don't hear sobs or see pained looks.

Adults have responded by rallying behind a movie that depicts this horror for one young man, by starting online and realtime support groups, by selling T shirts and promoting "Wear this color to oppose bullying" days. All of which is appropriate.

What is inappropriate is the example we set.

This has been on my mind since last week, when I realized I was being a bully. Yes, I was.

My disdain for the political views of Sen. Rick Santorum, and those of his ilk, is obvious. In my opinion, his views are extreme, his personality both arrogant and mean-spirited. I have posted remarks on Facebook that are rather bully-ish regarding him and other politicians.

It isn't a lie when I say my intention is to counteract what I see as lies or, at the very least greatly manipulated tales, from opposing views. My intention is to present another view.

To which my grandmother would say, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." And she would be correct. My intention is irrelevant when the outcome is a form of bullying.

Listen to people around you. Check your social media sites. Watch the news. Read a few internet articles. The world is full of bullies!

We label people, put them in boxes we have filled with anger. Libs. Tea baggers. Radical Right. Bleeding hearts. Queer. Baby-killers. Entitlement-seekers. Elitists. Etc etc etc...

Every side does it. Every group has rabid haters who want to label the opposing group. And those of us who are generally mild-mannered, people of faith, people who would never set out to purposely hurt someone? Well, we join right in, don't we!

We are snarky about people, judging hair, clothes, relationships, weight gain or loss. We whisper about them in the grocery store and in church: "Did she NOT look in the mirror this morning??"

How can we expect our kids to be any different?

We put celebrities, especially athletes, on pedestals, then we can't wait to tear them down. When Joe Paterno passed, the reaction of some people was truly appalling to me. People who had read nothing in-depth about the tragedy at Penn State, who knew nothing about the University or Coach Paterno's incredible contributions to academics, people who haven't made a point to pay attention to the story since. And yet, they felt justified in posting incredibly nasty remarks about a man who had just died.

Very few of us who call ourselves Steeler Nation know Ben Roethlisberger personally. Certainly, we are entitled to irritation when our Pro Bowl quarterback/team leader makes stupid choices in public. We don't want to pay large amounts of money to watch a guy who, at least for that moment, clearly displayed a complete lack of character.

Are we also entitled to say things like, "He is nothing but a serial rapist," or "How could that woman be stupid enough to marry him?" The people making these statements don't know Ben or his wife. But we judge long and hard.

How can we expect our kids to be any different?

We scold our kids when they poke at each other, or torment with words, or draws lines on back seats and say "Don't cross that!"

So why do Rush Limbaugh, Bill Maher, and others like them whose primary purpose is to stir controversy, have millions of faithful followers?

And we do likewise. Sharing items on Facebook before we check their validity. Being critical when we only know some of the facts. Posting statements we know for certain will cause a firestorm.

How can we expect our kids to be any different?

Kids are the best mirrors we have for our behavior and attitudes. They hear our road rage, our murmurings on the way out of church, our critique of the neighbors. They see our posts about political candidates, their wives, their supporters.

They hear us say the boss is stupid, no matter how many different bosses we have - and we wonder why they have trouble keeping a job at McDonald's.

They hear us say teachers are paid too much, only work 3/4 of the year, and have an easy job - and we wonder why they are disrespectful in school.

They hear us being negative about the church, the pastor, other religions, the outlook for our own lives - and we wonder why we have to drag them out of bed on Sunday morning.

They hear is being bullies of a different kind - and they act in accordance with that.

Any of those touch a nerve with you?

Am I exaggerating? Using hyperbole to make a point? Out in left field?

Fair enough. All I ask is that you are mindful, for just 48 hours, of bully-like remarks, actions, posts. Your own and others. Just listen and look. You will be surprised.

So how can we expect our kids to be any different?

We can stop this epidemic of bullying. It will take a variety of paths and a multitude of people standing firm. I will donate money and wear a T shirt.                                                                                                       I will gladly be a motivational speaker, free of charge, at any event which helps kids being bullied.                I will keep praying.

But first and foremost, I will stop any action of my own that remotely resembles bullying.

What about you? Will you join me? Can we think before speaking or posting? Can we ask: Is it kind, is it true, is it necessary, and does it improve the silence?

Imagine what could happen if we did that? If we stopped labeling, stopped berating each other in cyberspace, stopped criticizing based on false or partial information, stopped antagonizing?

Imagine what could happen if we speak against people who continue to be bullies?

And just imagine how differently we might see our children acting.

Have fun being kind!

We will talk soon.

BP :)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Online tests, flexibility, and the One in charge

I enjoy taking personality tests -you know, the online or magazine versions that are fun, albeit less than psychologically sound. Do you?

For me, the results change very little no matter what is going on in my life. And there are always a couple questions that draw laughs or disagreements from people who know me. Same with you, right?

Okay, so I am late more than I am on time. But I am getting better! The challenge is that my mind always believes there is one more task I can accomplish before I leave. Some folks are ready long before it is time to go, then they sit. I rarely sit, so that is a problem for me. And for some of you...fess up!

How about the question regarding your need to make plans, stick to a set course, adapt to changes, or fly by the seat of your pants?

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. Prov 16:9

The past two weeks months years have taught me that life is ever-changing, unpredictable, and does not conform to my timetable. Of course, I knew that before. In my head. Apparently, not in my gut.

Recently I spoke of a situation which needed resolution. The blog surprised the few people who know about the situation, because I have not written about it previously, and had vowed not to until it was over.

I thought it was close to being resolved. It wasn't.

We can make our plans...

Many plans have fallen through in the past two years. Most times I have been able to say, "Oh well" and believe it just wasn't God's design. Part of my testimony has been that I have learned to accept God's timing without lots of drama.

When the resolution seemed close two weeks ago, I didn't make a lot of tangible plans with people - still hesitant to do that - but I did look forward to a feeling of relief, of not having to constantly think about this, of no longer spending days waiting for one of the parties to take some action, only to be disappointed again. But that hasn't happened yet.

There have been some dark days in the past two weeks. Moments when God absolutely dragged me through the hour or day. Moments of feeling like there is an elephant on my chest, like it hurts to breathe.

Have you been there? I think you have.

Quick side note: If you are a person who tries to help (or maybe displays your own frustration) by saying there are people who have worse problem, stop it. Of course there are. But your dismissive scolding won't snap anyone out of what is very real pain at the moment. Thank you.

Clearly, I hadn't learned to release as much as I thought I had. Even though I have started each day with a decision to not get excited until the final action is taken. Even though I stopped making plans and promises, so no one is disappointed.

We can make our plans...

I had so many plans for this spring. Lots of adventures, lots of Ohio State Buckeyes softball games, lots of blessings piled on people I love, lots of Pittsburgh Pirates baseball, lots of good stories written, lots of great stuff. But I have struggled in this no-resolution-zone as very little of what I planned has come to pass.

Is that a lesson in handling disappointment...or a lesson in timing? Maybe my ideas were wonderful, maybe they will be appropriate later...but now wasn't God's time?

We can make our plans...

In the midst of a painful situation, it is sometimes hard to remember that most of what happens is not really about me. WHAT??? Yes, it's true. It's not about you, either.

Certainly there are lessons to be learned. But, life is hard, people are selfish sometimes, businesses often care more about making money than about people, drivers are sometimes careless, disease is never a respecter of persons...and, despite all of this, God is in charge. He loves me, He wants the best for me...but much of what happens in my world on any given day is more about what others need and what others have done. My job is to trust Him and respond appropriately!

We can make our plans...

This blog has been a struggle. I started it several days ago with the intention of discussing how I am still waiting. Lots of examples of other people enduring a waiting season came to mind, but nothing was falling in place.

Last night, as I laid in bed praying, a worship song came to mind. I quietly sang it, then continued praying. Another worship song in my head. Sang that, continued praying. Then this one: "I will make my plans Lord, but You direct my steps."

I fell asleep repeating that one line.

And I woke up knowing what this blog was really about, what these weeks/months/years still have to teach me.

It isn't that God doesn't want me to make plans. He doesn't want a robot who is waiting to be pushed around.

What He wants is to always be my focus. I think He loves softball and baseball. Of course, He wants me to have fun, to write good stories, to be a blessing, to relax...He is a good God who loves me.

But allowing Him to direct my steps - without histrionics, without pouting, without anger, without demanding explanation - is vital for my best life. He knows what I need, what you need, what the stranger who crosses your path needs. And He works it all out.

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. Prov 16:9

He knows what is best. He just does. And life would be much easier if I could get my fat head to remember that.

How about you? Are you making plans?

We will talk again soon!