If you had asked me 24 hours ago if I had ever been a bully, I would have said, “No,” with a firm conviction that I had not. However, my answer has changed in the past 24 hours. Thanks to my lengthy commute home from work late at night, I have a lot of time to think and reflect.
It all started when I was passed by a Dodge Neon.
In my church growing up, instead of having YM/YW, we mainly were grouped off by our class year and sometimes with more kids for trips and retreats. We had a small confirmation class of about 9 people and my closest friends that I keep in touch with come from that small group. In the group, there was a girl who was significantly shorter than me, (so yeah, really short) and she was a little socially awkward. During a big trip to Atlanta, (which is a long trip from Northern Minnesota), she demonstrated that she was somewhat obsessed with the new Dodge Neon and their “Hello” ad campaign. Every time she saw an ad or a Neon, she would say something along the lines of “Oh! Hello! You’re so cute!” I don’t remember if we ever teased her about it to her face but there were plenty of things said behind her back. (Which, really, does being a bully have to be done to their face?) And I know that those jokes about the Neon led to many other backbiting conversations about her.
I then remembered another girl, also from a church group. She was from a somewhat poor family and you could easily tell by the way she dressed. I don’t remember anything that we said about her and I remember, for the most part, being kind to her. However, I do remember that at one retreat, she was asleep and we tried the “pour warm water on her hand” trick to see if she would wet the bed. (She didn’t…she just woke up. Duh!) I don’t think we did it to bully her but just to try out the trick and she was the first one to fall asleep. However, years later, when I learned that she had taken her own life, that attempt at being funny came to the forefront of my mind almost immediately. I doubt our “joke” had anything to do with her decision but I still grieve for the kindness that was not shown to her, even in just that one night.
As that Neon passed me last night, all of those memories came flooding back and I felt horrible for the way I had participated in hurting both of those girls, (and I’m sure there were others). I did not do it to be mean. I did it to fit in. The other friends who participated were good and loyal friends. I am certain that if I had chosen the higher road and tried to be nice to those girls that my friends would not have turned on me or added me to their bullying. (And if they had, would that have been real friends?)
So, to my amazing little boys, (and to anyone else that may listen), I urge you to try to do better in this area. Do (at least) try to show kindness in ALL that you do! Avoid speaking evil of others or laughing at their expense. As you look at others, think of the lyrics of “I Am a Child of God” with different perspective. If you find yourself thinking unkind thoughts, think of directing the lyrics to them. “You are a child of God. And he has sent you here. He has given you an earthly home, but maybe you are not blessed with parents kind and dear. And so, I will walk beside you and help you find the way, that we both may live with him someday.” For those that go to the temple, a good measure of your thoughts of others is, would you say those thoughts while in the temple?
I know that I can do better in this area but I am grateful for a patient and guiding Heavenly Father to help me to find the right way and see others as he would see them.