In my previous blog post I stated that I had never been bullied or bullied anyone myself. However, there were many times when I witnessed bullying and did nothing to stop it, even though I knew it was wrong. Now granted, for those intent on bullying, I probably would not have been able to pull an after-school-special moment and change them into a nice person. But maybe it would have made a difference to the person who's adolescence was marked with teasing and tormenting to know that somebody was on their side. If I knew that bullying was wrong, and I just stood by and watched it happen without saying anything, wasn't I just a little bit guilty?
Not too long ago there was a horrific story in the media about a girl who was degraded, beaten, and gang raped outside a school dance. Allegedly, dozens of students stood by and watched without stepping in to help. While some little monsters cheered on the attacks, many others reported being horrified. Why then did nobody call for help? Why didn't the many teens in the crowd who knew it was wrong put a stop to it? There is a theory that people in situations like that don't go for help because they assume others already have. But while the level of violence in that situation is much greater, every day while thousands of kids are being bullied, fellow students and teachers stand aside and do nothing.
In fact, some of my greatest regrets are because when I was in high school and I saw kids being bullied, I did nothing. I didn't want to be picked on myself. I wanted to fit in and I was easily intimidated and afraid of confrontation. But I can remember being so angry watching the abuse, that tears would come to my eyes. If I could, I would apologize today to every kid that I didn't stick up for. And for the people out there who do, you truly are a special kind of hero.
Of all the bullying that goes on out there, I suspect that only a small fraction of the people involved are true bullies. I think the greater number of people either just get in line and do what those around them do or they just put their heads down and ignore it. But how can we expect bullying to stop if we pretend it doesn't happen?
Perhaps, and this is just a theory, one way to start changing things is to educate kids on how to stick up for others when they see something going on that they know is wrong. Maybe it's about teaching kids to do the right thing, even when it's not the popular thing.