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Bullying hurts the soul and steals its joy. It’s a palpable pain. And when it is not addressed, it can have long-lasting, dire consequences.

I’m writing today for all children who are bullied or may be exposed to the secondary effects of bullying. I’m speaking for them not because they are voiceless or powerless but because both are silenced when those who can make a positive difference hide behind the sovereignty of the home, the school’s authority, and other authority actions.

I remember when, as a child, I locked a guest out of my home on a cold winter’s day. After, I wondered why I would do such a thing because I knew it was wrong. I also knew they never stood up for me when they saw schoolmates taunting me. So I rationalized my behavior as deserved as if to say, “see what it feels like? How do you like it?”. When does a “one-off” become a habit?

The bullied abuse themselves physically, emotionally, and mentally. They ask why can’t they be accepted. Why aren’t they liked? What is wrong with ME? They often label themselves as “screw-ups.” When none of that makes them feel better, the effect may erupt as an angered response until they find someone who hears or stops them.

I wish I could say being raised in a loving home is enough, but I’ve lived the effects abuse outside of the home has. Over twenty-eight years, I gradually believed that someone I knew who verbally abused me must be right. I was worthless, ugly, and an opportunist. It wasn’t until, as I waited to speak, I was listening to another speaker at a conference on violence against women I recognized myself as a victim.

We learn violence is normal and accept it as truth when we are not believed or told that we are too sensitive or “this is how it’s always been. I survived,” while bullies are ignored or moved along with a wink and a slap on the back. As a result, we serve neither the victim nor the perpetrator well.

Why don’t we help heal each other without shame or condemnation? We must change our world to compassionate living. Our most significant resource is our voice, especially when we are in positions of power and exposed to children mistreated, abused, and murdered by people we believe are to protect them. Protective systems have failed, yet we believe these systems will work. Meanwhile, children are made to feel worthless and grow into adults afraid to speak up and may become bullies themselves.

What will you do? Will you provide a safe connection and conversation? Will you listen without judging? Will you step up and form compassionate opportunities in schools, the workplace, and other communities where we will undoubtedly learn that we have commonalities and diverse backgrounds?

Acknowledge those who have survived despite the systems. And for those for whom we are too late and could have been saved, acknowledge that bullying is real and an issue that must be meaningfully addressed. Thank you.

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