SHARING and CARING…it’s what LIFE is all about!

Bullying is a Word We Can Live Without

Posted by on Jun 27, 2013 in Blog, Food for Thought, Quotes | 2 comments

“Words are letters often shaped in quiet thought that paint a picture, recall a memory or tell a story.” My younger son made that statement several years ago and, strangely enough, it has stuck with me.

In mid-June, I attended Write! Canada, a three-day conference for writers who are Christian.  I had the privilege of being part of the faculty this year, leading an hour-long workshop on Writing Our Yesterdays. During the time we were together, pictures were painted, memories were shared and stories came from all directions. No surprise there. We were like-minded peers linked with a common denominator: our love for writing!

Each year the conference is a motivating and challenging experience. In the end, we are left with heads filled to capacity with new ideas and a rebirth of determination after hearing positive, uplifting and encouraging words.

But life isn’t always that affirming. There are times when words are not praiseworthy, not motivating, not encouraging. There are times when words can hurt and threaten a friendship or relationship, sometimes threatening it beyond repair.  Sometimes words are false and unjust, filled with accusations that rip a relationship in half and lead to harsh words spoken in retaliation.

If we consider the opening description of what words are…letters often shaped in quiet thought…I’d wager a bet that when words are spoken recklessly or with malice, they are not the result of quiet thought. I would also wager a bet that we have all faced times when the words of another have left us distraught, confused and sad.

Bullying is a word that has become worldwide. It’s a word that describes a behaviour which, unfortunately, has become part of our society and the media is full of disturbing stories:

  • Teens charged in alleged bullying of a Morristown, NJ high school freshman who later committed suicide. Prosecutor Robert Bianchi stated, “This case again underscores our need as a society to eradicate the bullying of our youth as regrettable consequences, such as this case, are far too numerous to be anywhere near acceptable.”
  • School bus monitor and grandmother of eight bullied by 7th grade boys (
  • University of Toronto Research and Innovation website shares a report from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health stating that girls in Ontario are nearly twice more likely to be victims of cyber-bullying than boys.
  • Stop a Bully, Canada’s Anti-Bullying Reporting System ( has been established since 2009 providing safe reporting of bullying in school communities.

Bullying is synonymous with harassing, intimidating, terrorizing, tormenting and browbeating, and I shudder at how our society has fallen victim to such violence. Our schools seem to be breeding grounds for it, and looking back, I’m sad to say I faced it in my youth as well. Words like, “Stop being such a bully!” or “He’s—and sometimes She’s—just a big bully!” were used to describe mean kids. They teased and made fun of their peers. But it never reached the pinnacle bullying has reached today.  And we certainly never had to attend a high school assembly with bullying as the main theme, have the topic as part of our curriculum or have an anti-bullying reporting system in place to protect us.

Now, it seems, the word is part of our everyday language, not only in our school systems but in the work place, in marriages and most shamefully, in how seniors are being treated. All we have to do is look at the commercials on TV to see what is happening to elderly parents who are victimized and abused over and over, both emotionally and physically, by family members.

There’s no question that abuse, whether in the form of verbal bullying or physical harm, has become a common—albeit despicable—behaviour and I am left wondering how and why it has become such an epidemic.

Epidemic may sound strong, but all we have to do is look at the statistics on marital abuse and we will quickly discover how far down we have slid on the “slippery slope.” More times than I’m sure are reported, women have fallen victim to the control and aggression of their spouse. Public ridicule, blackened eyes, broken bones and even rape have found their way into “wedded bliss” and women have suffered in secret.

Abby watched her husband’s demeanour change. His voice quieted and an abnormal calmness filled the room as he stared into her eyes. She watched the veins pulsate in his neck in tune with the opening and closing of his fist. His knuckles grew white and she knew she was in trouble….

“No, Jake, please! I understand. I won’t ask again. I promise. You were right. I need to be here with…”

But Abby’s words fell on deaf ears. She stood defenseless as the suddenness and brutality of her husband’s first blow stunned her. Her head jerked to the right as his fist struck her left eye and cheek. She had been unprepared for the viciousness. Jake had never hit her in the face before. His aim had always been exact, premeditated, the results out of sight. Abby threw her arms across her face to protect it from further attack, exposing her arms to take the second and third blows. Jake’s last strike spun her hard against the bedpost. Like a small dog helpless against the ruthless assault of its owner, she crawled across the bed, desperate to escape the abuse (excerpt from the Prologue of Then Came a Hush).

Marital abuse runs through our society like a forest fire left to its own desires. And the startling fact is that it doesn’t stop there! Our very young are targets for this evil. Friends of ours have a daughter who is fostering a baby girl who will never be normal after receiving a severe beating as an infant that has left her brain damaged. You hold her in your arms knowing that she will never understand you, never clearly see you, never return your hugs or skip a rope or play with dolls. And your heart breaks.

Have we lost the courage or worse, interest, to take a stand against such cruelty? Are we willing to turn a blind eye simply because “It doesn’t involve me” and piously express thanks that “I’m not a victim”? Are we willing to point an accusing finger and yet do nothing to prevent it? I don’t believe for a moment we are. But it’s going to take more than a lecture or a small slap on the wrist or a year suspension from school to erase such behaviour from our society. Children need to learn at the get-go that words can hurt if used with mean motives. That there’s no truth in the childhood chant, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Children and adults alike need to understand that saying “I’m sorry” is a necessary part of seeking forgiveness. And adults need to be held accountable both as parents in teaching their children respect and as adults when they use violence as a means to an end.

History is full of bullying that has led to mass human destruction and the one thing that can be said about learning from history is that we never learn from history. Be that as it may, we can still take a chunk out of the proverbial monster by teaching and practising godly values. We need to use our words after “quiet thought” and seek forgiveness when we have wronged another and offer forgiveness when we have been victimized…a big mountain to climb, but worthy of our efforts.

BTW…kudos to the school bus monitor/grandmother in Rochester, New York. She chose her words well. Seeking only an apology, she refused to press charges.



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  1. Susan Duke

    Hi Ruth.

    Nice to see your blog again. Have been following you a little bit on facebook.

    As usual your topic is timely and well done. By the way, I am sorry if I have ever said anything to hurt you?????

    Thinking of you and Doug and the enjoyment you must be experiencing up at your wooded retreat.

    Love you both


    • Ruth Waring

      Susan, you have never nor could you ever do anything to hurt me. I SO appreciate you and the times we can spend together. Look forward to our next visit. Love you, too!

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