May 5, 2011
I have watched the news a lot lately and I am shocked at the rise in the number of cases they are covering of bullying. 2 guilty pleas, no jail time in Massachusetts bullying suicide case. This morning I watched as one person suggested the remedy for being taunted for being different, or bullied, was to–well, uh–for the bully to be stronger and embrace their differences. I couldn’t help but wonder when making fun of others became so strongly part of who we are?
I remember when the TV show “Survivor” started. I was shocked that we would all watch as someone was systematically humiliated in front of the entire audience as they were “voted-off.” I was in my residency and certainly in the minority and not very popular for holding this view. And, now this sort of scenario where someone gets sent home in front of everyone based on their popularity is common place on prime time. Don’t get me wrong–I am a huge American Idol fan, but isn’t there something slightly sad at watching someone lose?
Fast forward to the work place–how many times do we stand by as others are excluded or treated in a way we don’t see as just or fair? How many times do we stand by and watch a confidence betrayed or refuse to reach out to someone who needs our compassion because of our own fear of being different? Is this really so different from the behavior we were part of on the playground when we were young? If you read the case and the link above–many students stood by as this poor young girl was taunted and humiliated repeatedly. Isn’t the answer for those of us around to stand up and stop this sort of group-think or humiliating behavior? Not for her to try to be stronger?
I have studied social behavior for a long time–since my dissertation in graduate school. I do believe we are social beings by nature, and want to fit in and be with others, and will go to great lengths to fit in with the group. But, I also believe that culture and what we tolerate as a member of the crowd shapes how our environments evolve–at work, school, or in our places of worship. We aren’t doomed to taunt others and we can make our daily worlds more friendly to everyone. And, this is the place from which we need to commit to doing things differently as an individual. Let’s create a culture of compassion for each other and stand up to bullies and even the smallest acts of others lacking in kindness.