There has been a lot of talk about bullying in the news and the deaths by suicide that have resulted. Three out of five teens that commit suicide are LGBT so there is a focus on helping this group. However, whether you are gay or geek the pain of bullying is just as bad. As people it is our nature to seek acceptance from others to know that we have a place in the world. When we find ourselves in a place where we cannot get that acceptance because we are different from those around us, we learn that we are not worthy, that we are not good enough and we start to feel that we will never be loved.
This is unacceptable.
Some call for an end to bullying through legislation, increasing the penalties for picking on others. This helps but will never solve the problem. Some say that the government can send a message of support to LGBT teens by repealing DADT or legalizing marriage. That would send a message of acceptance, but it is not the government that bullies people. To stop the bullying we have to change the hearts of those who bully and those who are bullied.
Changing hearts is not easy, but if we can teach compassion and acceptance, if we can remove the fear of the other, if we can stand up and show those around us who struggle that it gets better then we can and we will change hearts and foster tolerance. But to do all of that we have to do something very hard, we have to learn to care about our oppressors. They are not the enemy. They are as much a victim as we are; the difference between them and us is that they ease their pain by putting it on others, by putting it on us. We do not need to bear their pain if we know in our heart that we are good, we are loved, we are proud of who we are. Then we will be strong.
But how do we change hearts? Not with loud words or legislation, but in quiet talks one person to another. We can show we are not different, find common ground and a point of connection. Let the bully see us as human, as people, as someone other than a victim. For those of us who see bullying happening around us, we need to work to change hearts as well. We need to come to the defense of those who need it, to show them they are not alone. We need to ask the bully, "why? why do you do this?" We need to keep asking until they give us answers that make them see where their need to hurt others comes from.
The changes that need to be made are changes in social understanding not in legislation. These changes will spread from one heart to another as we tell our stories, and live our lives to show that we are loved, we are ok and we are strong. I may be different from you and you from the next person, but we are all human, we are all in this together and we as a nation, a people a world could be so much more if we set aside our fear of the other. So I ask you today, don't fear, don't hate. Instead be paient with those you do not understand, be willing to listen and willing to speak and most of all be willing to be yourself.