Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Scars don't have to last a lifetime...

I can still feel their arms pulling my half clothed 11 year old body up on the locker bench. I can still hear the taunting voices of the two girls who began to describe the apparent ugliness of my body for all to hear and see. I can still hear the giggles as I ripped myself away to hide in the bathroom. I can still feel the deep anger and pain that trickled down my face as I heard the echo of their words in my head. A moment forever ingrained on my memory, one moment that could have destroyed me, but here I stand unbroken.

I was in the 6th grade when I first encountered cruel bullying. I had always dealt with the grade school taunting, but that day was the first time I was faced with sadistically and intentionally mean bullying. The days that followed were not much better, it seemed that I now had a target on my back, and I began to wonder if this is what Hell felt like. My reaction was to crumple inwardly at ever snicker in the hall and take every whispered word to heart - I began to believe the lies. My mother and father saw a once vibrant, cheerful girl wane. Thankfully my parents didn't leave me alone in my thoughts; through the darkness of untruth came loving hands to embrace my broken heart. Healing came from their loving intervention.

Bullying is becoming an epidemic in our schools, in our homes, and in our daily lives. Why?
 I believe that bullying has continued to grow because we have forgotten to teach children the value or worth of another person and themselves. They have lost their moral compass and it is frighteningly apparent. Bullying attempts to tear down the essence of person; it is an attempt to shred the soul. Bullying is often a direct response to negative experiences or environments. Many children grow up in environments that would be the stuff of nightmares - they are left scared, angry, feeling worthless, and unloved. So they act out the only way they know how. Bullying can also be learned behavior; the result of mirroring what they see or hear their parents say, off hand, at home. Ultimately, we all at one time or another have been bullied or been the bully. How can this be? Well it is all in how we react to being bullied.
We become the bully.

After bullying has occurred two things or natural instincts happen - 1) We carry on the assault of the bully inwardly which inflicts tremendous damage to our self esteem;  or 2) We begin to fight back in fear of being bullied. Either way we become the bully, either to ourselves or to others. Someone has to step up and stop the cycle. It cannot be ignored because it is ruining our children. It is an adults time to be the hero.

How can an adult stop the inner bullying? How can we halt the self inflicted wounds of believing that the untrue is true?
 Simply by talking. Talk to your children…not at them, but talk with them. As a society we have lost the art of loving and friendly communication. Too many times we let the distractions of radio, TV, phone, or Internet interrupt opportunities to just talk - to get to know our children's thoughts and let them in on ours. I had a very open, loving, and communicative relationship with my parents. This was instrumental in my overcoming the bullying I had experienced, and any future encounters. Talking with them gave me the avenue to vent my fears and frustrations in a safe way. In a way that I didn't take it out on others - so that I didn't become the very thing that I feared. As adults and parents we cannot ignore bullying, we cannot expect our children to get over it, or to stand up to it. We cannot shift that burden onto their young shoulders because they are not equipped to handle it. Think back - were you mature enough to handle bullying at their age?
Undeniable Truths

My parents began to break down the lies flying through my head by giving me tangible truths - Undeniable truths. They took the words or actions of the bullies and began to chip away by telling me simple things. "Look at your eyes, have you ever seen anybody with similar color or shape. Look at your hands and legs, they allow you to draw and run. Look at your sister and brother, look at Dad and I - have you ever seen anyone who looks just like us?" This may seem so elementary, but it made me realize that the things that made me look different were not alien, I was just like everybody else, because EVERYBODY is different. They filled me up with the positive and changed my perspective, so that the next time my response to a negative situation would be different. They taught me that bullying stems from fear, jealousy, anger, and hate. I learned that bullying had absolutely nothing to do with me, instead it had everything to do with what was in the heart of the person doing the bullying. We need to cultivate kindness, respect, hope, integrity, and love in the hearts of our children, because the absence of these emotions allows cruelty to invade and run rampant.
We are our children's first responders.

Does this mean that our children will never be bullied? No. Will it prevent emotional wounds inflicted by the bully? No. But just like a doctor treats his patients with medicine, we ,as parents, must be willing to prescribe the treatment that our children need to begin to heal. We have to be the first responders, or we will lose them. Investing in a child will be the greatest return we will ever get, and teaching them how to navigate the murky waters of life are paramount for them to become well adjusted and confident. Being bullied is a prime teachable moment. A moment that will help them define who they are and what they are worth. I am living proof of that.

Time does heal many things, hearts can be mended, and the tarnished can be made new again. I let go of the fear and anger I felt after being cruelly mocked that day so many years ago. What is left is the knowledge that I am bigger than the bully. I am stronger than the bully. My scars are vanishing, but theirs are still gaping. I am unbroken, and I weep for the broken hearts that tried to crush my soul.  I was treated immediately by my first responders, and engraved upon my heart is the truth that God loves me and I am wonderfully made.
**Check out my book "Red is the Color of..." and use it as a tool to start talking with your children about their worth.


Nancy Rue said...

This is one of the best summaries of the effects of bullying and how we as adults can respond that I've seen, and I've seen a lot in my research for Mean Girl Makeover, a fiction trilogy about bringing an end to this travesty. Thank you, Tiffany. Just . . . thank you. Blessings,
Nancy Rue

Tiffany Haisten said...

Thank you Nancy for taking the time to read this. I think it is something that we all need to think about and begin to equip our children with the tools to end it!