Let me tell you a story. There was a boy, we’ll call him Logan, that I took care of at the hospital where I’m a nurse. He was at the hospital because he attempted to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head.
He was only 14 years old.
He lived because miraculously the bullet grazed off his head, leaving him mostly neurologically intact. Every inch of the walls of his room were covered with get well cards, pictures, and a poster that his team had all signed with encouragement and “we love you, man” notes. Everyone at his school had rallied around him with their support.
It turns out that Logan had tried to kill himself because he was being bullied… by those very same people at his school, and by his athletic team. The team that, now that he was laying in a hospital bed surrounded by monitors, I.V. poles, medications, and a ventilator, sent him warm and kind well wishes.
All I could think, as my heart ached for this boy who thought that he was worthless, was “Why do we do things too little, too late?”
Why is it so much easier to say sorry after you hurt someone than to avoid that thing that will hurt them in the first place? Why are we constantly in a state of action and reaction? We do whatever we want, and then we deal with the consequences, mostly by professing our innocence.
Our culture has a responsibility problem. We forget that we need to take care of each other. These are our brothers and sisters. These are people that God has breathed life into with gentleness and joy and declared “You are good, my child.” We are our brother’s keeper.
So why do we not take care of each other? Why do we find people of all ages bullied to point of thinking that life is not worth living? Bullied not always in the sense of being physically abused, but often in a more subtle, but equally destructive way.
The kind of bullying I am talking about (online and in person) goes by many, many faces.
Belittling. Exclusion. Rumors. Cruel “jokes.” Rejection.
Here are some things I want you to know:
1. Most people are deeply insecure. They don’t need your help to find their weaknesses. Chances are when someone gets made fun of, or has their flaws pointed out to them, they have already realized it. They have already felt bad about it. They don’t need your help to feel small. They need you to build them up.
2. Stop trying to dominate. It’s not okay to push people over in order to get what you want. There is more to life than trying to be the coolest or most popular.
3. You will never regret being kind to people. This is important, so I’m going to say it again. You will never regret being kind to people. You will look back on your life and you will remember the tears on the face of the girl you made cry in home room, the look on your brother’s face when you made fun of him in front of your friends, and the feeling of shame from not including someone who just needed a friend. You will look back on those and feel a pit in your stomach, but you will never look back on a time when you built someone up and regret it.
4. You have an effect on people. It’s time to stop the hands off attitude and accept that what you do is never just about you. Your actions, or lack of actions have a direct positive or negative effect on people. It’s not ok to push someone to the breaking point and then apologize when you broke them.
5. Making fun of people does not mean you have a good a sense of humor. You may be charismatic, sharp, and good at impressions or biting remarks, but that’s not humor.
6. Girls, you need to stop being fake cruel to each other and having an attitude problem. Sweetness will always attract people to you, and being gentle is the strongest attribute you could have. Being genuine with each other will bring you true friendships and being kind is so much more fulfilling than being sarcastic.
If you are the one being made fun of or belittled, please know that your life is worth so much. The amount of love God has for you is more than enough to wash away every hurt that you have experienced. He is the perfect one to go to because every torment, every pain, He has experienced before you, and for you, 2000 years ago, and He knows that it hurts. A prayer that I like to repeat is the Bible verse “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
You have so much to offer the world I want to cry because you just don’t even know it. You think you aren’t seen but you are! You think that you can’t make someone’s life better but you CAN! Stop limiting yourself and telling yourself that your job as a teen is just to kind of make it through school and do something with your life but also just mainly to have fun.
Your purpose is so much greater than that. God created you to know, love and serve Him. Jesus says that the most important commandments are to love God and love your neighbor.” (Matthew 22:36-40). That’s a pretty short list if you ask me. Obviously there is some fine print, but I’d say it’s pretty clear that if we trying to know, love and serve God on this earth in order to spend eternity with Him in Heaven, it’s incredibly important to love each other.
Mother Teresa has a quote that says, “If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
I want you to repeat that to yourself when you want to make yourself feel better by making someone else feel smaller. We belong to each other.
When that girl says something dumb because she is trying to seem cool around you and your friends. We belong to each other.
When that comment is on the tip of your tongue, and it will embarrass or humiliate someone but you will look so cool and funny in front of your friends. We belong to each other.
I have seen too many teenagers try to commit suicide over cruel, demeaning Facebook posts, over a ruined reputation and the despair caused by knowing that every single day of the week they have to go and face cruelty at school. I have seen kids as young as 11 years old try and kill themselves over the things that we play off as “awww, come on, we were just messing with you.”
This stuff is real, and it’s time that we started to see the ways that we are putting people down around us.
I took care of another boy, we’ll call him Brian. Brian shot himself in the head, at the age of 12. He lived, but I will never forget the look on his face when he awoke in his hospital room. It was a look of disappointment. He was disappointed because he would rather be dead that have to live with the kind of torment he went through at school.
This is real stuff. I am counting on you. You’re incredible and you have no idea the effect you can have on someone – to hurt them or to help them. Now go be awesome.
*Editor’s Note: If you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline to talk to a trained counselor at any time.