At Communities that Care, we support organizations in collaboratively fostering a culture of health for youth and families. The recent conversations regarding bullying provide us all an opportunity to address these issues at the community level. Recently I participated in a meeting of well-intention adult leaders who were expressing concern over recent reports of bullying, anti-Semitism and racism in our schools. There is a strong desire to “do something” about it. The solutions put forth focused on anti-bullying programs for our youth. I would like to offer a different approach.
In the world of prevention, we recognize the interconnected nature of our community as we foster a culture of health through prevention. Prevention work takes place in various domains; individual/peer, schools, family and community. Each of these domains is nested one within another and within the larger environmental and global context. Schools are a reflection of the community; they are a mirror. You cannot have tolerant schools in an intolerant community or kind schools in an unkind community. Issues of respect, inclusion and kindness are community issues and the youth are mirroring back to us our community context.
Recently I listened to a podcast with Dr. Shawn Ginwright where he put forth a call for us to move from “lens to mirror”. In other words, to ask questions of self-inquiry in order to discover the ways in which we may be, unconsciously perpetuating inequity. I invite us to take up Dr. Ginwright’s challenge and to compassionately investigate where we may be unconsciously behaving in ways that model bullying for the young people in our community.
Bullying is defined as seeking to harm, intimidate or coerce someone. It is an ONGOING and DELIBERATE misuse of power in relationship through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behavior that intends to cause social, physical and/or psychological harm.Bullying behavior is repeated and it can happen in person and online.
A mirror for self-reflection:
- Am I criticizing individuals on social media? Am I sharing and commenting on content that is personally attacking and disparaging of others? Am I repeating these disparaging comments in the community?
- Am I saying things about someone that I wouldn’t say to them directly?
- Do I follow social media or local news that is negative, attacking and designed to disparage members of our community?
- Do I gossip, make fun of others?
- Do I start and perpetuate rumors?
- Do I encourage others to be mean with me?
- Do I send mean or threatening messages by text or social media?
- Am I commenting on social media stories by local media sources in a manner that is disparaging to others?
The greatest action we can take to end bullying in our community is to use the power of the mirror for self-reflection. Let us shift the community context to one of kindness, respect and compassion.