Growing up I was on both the giving and receiving end of bullying. I was guilty of following the pack and not standing up for kids, but there were times I did. There were times I was on the other side of the pack and was picked on and bullied. Back then (way back in the 80s and 90s) my mom always encouraged me to not only be the bigger person but to also embrace the emotions that came from being bullied. I was reassured that it was okay to cry and it was okay to empathize and feel others’ pain. She reassured both my brother and I that our sensitivity to and respect of not only our feelings but those of others’ was and is a good thing.
Today’s kids aren’t taught this. They are told that feelings are a weakness and that caring for others’ feelings is being a snowflake. If they are bullied or picked on, they are told to suck it up and toughen up.
We mock safe spaces.
We mock empathy.
We mock feelings.
We mock emotions.
We mock sensitivity.
We mock kids who speak up.
We mock those who are different from us.
We mock those that are bullied.
We mock their tears.
We are the bullies.
By teaching our children that showing feelings or compassion is bad, we are creating a society of emotionless and apathetic citizens. And we wonder why we are quickly becoming the nation of school shootings. We wonder how a bully like Donald Trump was elected president. We wonder how bullies become the talking heads on extremist media.
We are teaching our children that feelings do not matter and to just suck it up. We are accepting the behavior of the bullies and punishing the bullied. How messed up and backwards is this?
People aren’t “snowflakes” or “cucks” because they respect the feelings of others and acknowledge their own feelings. These are both characteristics of strong people and the very characteristics we should be looking for in our leaders. We need to embrace our feelings and we need to show and feel empathy towards others. We need to teach more than tolerance and instead focus on acceptance and compassion. We need to welcome emotions. We need to welcome differences.
If we want to change the direction we are heading, we have to stop this whole attitude of “suck it up” when it comes to kids that are bullied and we need to address the real problem of bullying – both in our schools and among our politicians and adults. The internet gives bullies a safe space to hide behind their words and we all feel more emboldened behind the keyboard. But we aren’t gaining anything from this and the only thing that we accomplish is digging deeper divisions.