A Letter to Teens About Bullying
When I was in the 5th grade, there was a girl at my bus stop that hated me. I don’t know why. I had the wrong clothes or the wrong hair or whatever. As if those things really matter. As if somehow what you put on the outside of your body is more important then who you are on the inside. One day, this girl brought a needle from home and stabbed me repeatedly with it. Her mother was a nurse. I spent the rest of the 5th grade walking to school; sneaking off on my way to the bus stop and walking to school under freeway overpasses and over passed out drunks just to avoid her wrath. Either option sucked. Either option put me at risk. But this girl felt the need to go out of her way to make my life miserable. She could have just left me alone.
We don’t all like each other – that is fine. We have different personalities, different beliefs, different opinions. That is actually all good. Each one of us has an important role to play on this Earth. I could never be a doctor, but I will often need one. I could never paint a painting or build a bridge or cook a meal (well, not a good one). Each of us being different and unique is what gives us so many options. Each of us is an important piece of the bigger puzzle. When we destroy one piece of the puzzle, none of it works. The picture never comes together.
If you are being bullied, it is not your fault. As long as you always do your best and strive to live in harmony with the world around you you are fulfilling your mission. That someone harasses you is their issue, not yours. And it is not okay. Please tell someone and get help. Don’t let them break your spirit or tear you down. Visit Your Life, Your Voice to find out more and get help.
If you are a bully, well – you should get help too. Find an adult in your life to talk to about your anger issues. Find peaceful ways of conflict resolution. Find things to like about yourself so that you will stop tearing others down to make yourself feel good. If you are being bullied or abused, as bullies sometimes are, tell someone. Whatever you need to do to find a way to live at peace with the world around you, do it. Sometimes we are a bully and we don’t realize it. You can take a self assessment quiz at pbs.org.
A message was recently going around Facebook and it went like this:
Every day please make the choice to spread kindness instead of cruelty. When you see someone being bullied, step in and stop it if you can do so safely or go find an adult to intervene. Reach out to those who are left on the outside, everyone needs a friend. Treat each other with kindness and respect. This is your world, you make the choices that determine if it will be a world that values kindness or endorses cruelty.
To learn more about the impact of bullying, please read 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. And then keep reading. Librarian Naomi Bates has a booklist of titles dealing with bullying that you may want to read. You can also visit the Pacer Center Against Bullying which is made by teens, for teens.
You see, last night I learned that a teen who had come to my library and participated in my program for years; a teen that I had the honor to talk with and laugh with and share with – he took his own life. He felt that he couldn’t take what was happening to him, or he believed the venomous lies that those that torment try to inflict on you. Each hurtful word or action is an arrow. If we sling too many arrows, we eventually take our target out. Now everyone who knew and loved this young man will never get to hear any more laughs, see any more smiles, or make any more memories. He doesn’t get to fulfill his purpose and the world is left with one less puzzle piece. What happened to him is not okay. Don’t let it be in vain. Choose today to live your life differently.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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