You know it's gotten pretty bad when pictures like this appear on Facebook.
It happens all around us, so much so that it's begun to feel almost normal to me. Then, last week, I saw a story about a 14-year old boy named Jamey Rodemeyer. It was another incident of a teen who had been bullied so relentlessly, he committed suicide. Sadly, these kinds of stories have been in the news so much, even they have become almost "normal." What??
But Jamey's story especially, struck a nerve. This young man struggled to help others who might be going through the same thing. Even through his own pain, he tried to get the message out that "it gets better," until it became too much for him, and he took his own life.
Jamey's story broke my heart. It made me think that we have not progressed beyond a pack mentality. We sense weakness, whatever makes a person different--whether it's race, religion, sexual orientation, political philosophy--and we attack like wolves, hungry to destroy whatever "stands out" and makes us uncomfortable. Whether we know it's wrong or not, sometimes it feels more comfortable to "run with the pack," rather than to stand up against it or fight it.
I didn't intend this post to be only about bullying, though that is serious enough. But bullying is just a byproduct of the pervasive ugliness.
Is it worse than it used to be, or in our world of the internet and 24-hour media, do we just hear about it more? Perhaps our high-tech world enables it to spread more quickly, a contagion of ugliness. Are we all so miserable that we need to draw others into our pack?
Whether it's worse or not, how do we stop it?
Accentuate the positive.
I still remember waking one morning as a teenager, with this strange concept flashing in my brain like a neon sign. I thought I'd made it up and was pretty darn proud of thinking of such a profound and simple statement. Of course, later I learned it wasn't my creation, but the title of a song written by Johnny Mercer in 1944. I must have heard it somewhere, sometime, and placed it in a jam-packed, disorganized drawer in my mind, labeled, "Neat Things to Remember When Needed."
For some reason--maybe it was my parents' divorce, or the loss of my first love--I pulled the phrase out of storage that morning long ago, and it has been with me ever since.
Still, even as I recite the quote, I hear a collective, "Ick," or "Oh, brother." But I don't care. It's what is needed today. Rather than focusing on all that we DISAGREE on, why not focus on what we AGREE on?
When we are uncomfortable with someone we perceive to be DIFFERENT, why not focus on what is the SAME?
When we are having such a BAD day that we have to make others' days miserable too, why not focus on what's GOOD about the day? And if you can't find something good, take a deep breath and be grateful for that breath.
There's something good--positive--in everything and everyone. Find it. Maybe then, instead of ugliness eating away at each of us, we can eat away at ugliness instead.