Bullying is most commonly made up of small things like the “sigh and eye roll,” the “glance and laugh,” the “repeated rumor,” or the “pretend he’s not there.” These behaviors isolate others and build up over time. How many of us have the clarity and courage to identify and stop these kinds of patterns in our friends and in ourselves? How can we fight against this real-life bullying?
The answer might surprise you because the answer is to not fight against it. Tearing down a bully, including one we find in ourselves, is still tearing town. We can not stop fighting with fighting, cannot stop accusations by accusing. Instead we must focus our attentions and efforts on what and who we want to become, on what kind of culture we want to create. More than anything else, we must foster and teach empathy.
“Unselfie,” by Michelle Borba was required reading for PBD staff this summer. Borba teaches that the anti-bully is the person with empathy, who can use his imagination to place himself in the shoes of another and feel what they feel. She encourages adults to model and teach empathy as a skill anyone can develop. She teaches that those who develop empathy will become up-standers and not by-standers when it comes to bullying and they will be able to do it in a natural way that comes from the heart.
At PBD we are taking the time to teach empathy carefully and deliberately as an inoculation to bullying. We understanding that most cruelty happens far outside the view of coaches and others adults and we will never put an end to bullying by catching all the bullies. Rather, we can put an end to bullying by fostering patience, kindness, and the powerful tool empathy.