My wife shared a heartbreaking story with me the other day. She was talking to someone whose child was bullied at school. The child had been told that a party ended at a certain time so the parents came to pick her up at what they thought was the appointed time.

It turns out the party was actually an all night sleep over. Obviously, the kid was crushed. The parents were hurt and in the end, no one was better off for having gone through this event.  My wife commented to me that she wondered where the parents were at when this was going on. I told her that the parents (of the uncharitable children) probably had no idea what was going on.

Later, I rethought that position.

I wonder if the parents did not accidentally add to the story. I wonder if the parents did not say to the children that they had to invite the one that they did not like. In other words, I wonder if they did not say to their sons that they had to invite the son of the person my wife was talking with. In an effort to be kind, did they create more hurt.

See, this is where the whole story gets a bit kinked for me. If these kids did not like this person, I do not know if I think they had to invite him. If they find him to be odd (to be fair, I've met this person and I'm not sure how that I would be friends), I am not sure that they have to hang out together just because they are on a sports team together.

Yes, I can see how this would be hurtful for the child. Yes, my heart would break if it were one of my children. No, that does not mean it would be wrong.  It just means that it would hurt. To my knowledge, this was not an official team event—if it was then I would absolutely think that the child must be included.

This stickier issue for me to work through here is the question of what exactly is bullying. It seems I cannot get online, turn on the TV or the radio today without hearing about it. To be honest, I feel that I was bullied when I was a child. I am certain that there are people who feel that I bullied them when we were in school together. There are a few that I even feel I bullied—I say that to my shame. We're facebook friends today. I even saw a street preacher who claimed to be bullied by people standing with signs in his church service. 

My children have a written pledge that hangs throughout their school that they do not have to put up with bullying. I think all of this is great. I am glad that my children know there are resources available to them if they are bullied and that they have other people telling them it is not ok to bully anyone. I affirm that whole-heartedly. Conversations starting about this are important and necessary. Beyond conversations, action is even more crucial. We need to stop people from hurting other people.

I am just looking for a more clear definition than what I am currently hearing. I am excited that we, as a society are looking at this problem and that we are working to understand it. I am also afraid that we are moving to a point where any time someone disagrees with me, I am going to be able to call that bullying.  I have a great fear that we have already lost the ability to disagree agreeably and I cannot help but wonder if the problem will not be exacerbated if we do not do a better job at creating space for disagreeable conversations.




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  1. Hmmm… interesting thoughts. This caught my attention because we had some issues w/what I would call was bullying. (Very mean name calling… that ended w/my son changing his routes in school to avoid these kids) I was so mad I wanted to go take my own action against these kids! I think there is a lot of attention going towards bullying but I do wonder what a full definition would be at the schools. I’m also afraid I don’t see too much action. Probably because the action would involve more supervision at schools and that would mean more jobs – and the school doesn’t really want to pay more people. I do see how so much attention on bullying could turn into no one being able to deal w/others disagreeing w/them.

  2. Hey Stefanie,
    Thanks for sharing. The school paying more people is a hard thing with budgets the way they are currently. I remember when my oldest was in young fives at a private school. She actually threw an older girl down on the playground who was bullying a friend of hers after she went to the playground monitor who told her to “work it out on her own.”
    Of course, I actually felt that her teacher was a bully too but that is a post for tomorrow or at the very least another day.

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