Last night, we happened upon Independent Lens on PBS. They were airing the documentary "Bully." I own this movie. But I haven't watched it yet. Because it hurts my heart to see meanness. It hurts my heart to see people hurting.
I don't like how angry I feel toward the kid doing the bullying. Or how angry I feel toward the parent who is trying their best but doesn't realize they are also putting down their child. Or how angry I feel toward the administrators and elected officials who brush all of it off or who blame the victim.
I don't like to see a child struggle. To see the look on their face when they try to tell someone and are shut down. To watch as they try to figure out how to handle this situation - with laughter or with tears or fighting back.
Or by ending their life. Because they don't know what else to do.
And it got me thinking.
This isn't just something that happens in middle school or high school or elementary school. This spirit of selfishness runs throughout society these days.
Just like the vice principal who wants to look like she's taking action and being firm - her selfish desire is about how she comes across. She doesn't seek to do what is right by the students who are being harmed.
Just like the bully who wants to feel powerful.
Just like the parent who wants to push their child to open up, to push their child to stand up for themselves.
Our selfish hearts get in the way of so much.
Our desire to be strong. Powerful. Above. Over. Bigger.
We do it as adults. In our workplaces, in our families, in our churches, in our online groups, amongst our friends. We want to be in control, on top, in the know, part of the loop - at all costs, sometimes.
Our desire for instant gratification is fueled by that selfishness. We want to feel big and powerful and best and we want to feel it RIGHT NOW. So we make choices that hurt others in order to get what we want to feel. Even if it is short lived. And then we move on to another target and another and another - all so we can keep feeling "on top" and not lose our status.
We fear stepping back from that terrifying yet comfortably routine place where we gossip and spread doubt and plant seeds of negativity all around us... hoping that maybe if we make everyone else look at least a little bad, we will somehow look brighter.
Maybe you are shaking your head right now and saying that it just isn't like that once you grow up.
Or maybe you are afraid to look at your circle... or to look at yourself.
What if our greatest desire really and truly was about seeking to serve and love others? What would that look like?
In the movie, there were times that I was yelling at the TV - "Mom! HUG YOUR KID RIGHT NOW!" "Bus driver! PULL OVER AND STOP THEM!" "Administrator! BE HIS CHAMPION!"
And I realized...
My heart yells like that every day.
When I see someone post judgemental stuff on Facebook about the guy on the street corner begging with his cardboard sign.
When I hear about private groups of online friends who spend their time laughing at and making fun of others.
When I'm in a conversation and the topic turns to disparaging someone I know.
When I find myself participating in that conversation.
When I hear myself fight with my husband or yell at my child.
When I think of a family member and roll my eyes or groan at the thought of spending time with them.
When I spend time with a group of people - any group - and in any way come away feeling like I'm somehow better than they are.
I'm just as guilty as any other person.
I sometimes think the difference is that it eats me up inside. I can't live with myself when I find myself drowning in those kind of behaviors and conversations and thoughts.
But I want people to like me and they will like me if I agree with them. I want to be accepted. I want people to think I'm pretty and loving and generous and authentic and I want them to see certain things in me that maybe I don't even really see in myself. So I try to fill that gap... and instead of filling it with love, if I'm not careful, I can easily fill it with yucky stuff.
While kids might be more physical with their bullying and might use words and language that is more directly cruel, we adults certainly know how to smoothly cut someone down with a glare or a few choice words. We know how to ruin someone's reputation, weaken their support network... turn their friends against them.
We all have to get real. Right now. If we want kids to stop bullying... if we want kids to be kind to one another... if we want kids to stand up for each other... if we want kids to be friends with everyone...
If we want to be able to teach them to be that way and we want to demonstrate for them how to be that way...
We have to authentically live that way first.
I certainly don't do this perfectly. But I do want to challenge you.
Look inside your heart. Are you being a bully? Are you making excuses for your selfish behavior? Are you trying to fit in by being mean? Are you afraid to stand up because then you become the target?
Do you feel good about how you treat others? Really and truly? All others?
Step 1 is to recognize in ourselves what we are afraid of identifying, afraid of recognizing.
Step 2 is to change that behavior. To not go there anymore.
Step 3? Well, I think it's to try and help shape other people's behavior. To encourage them to make changes, too. To stand up against wrong and hurtful choices.
Step 4? More hugs. Lots more hugs and healing and loving ourselves and loving each other. Serving each other. Loving each other. Choosing to see beauty and positivity in everyone around us.
But most important is step 1. Being really and truly and deeply honest with ourselves about how we behave, how we treat others, what we think about others, what we say about others.