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It Gets Better?

February 21, 2013

It’s a good program. I believe that it is helped a lot of people. I know for an absolute fact that when you’re alone and things are really bad, you just need a voice, one voice that tells you that there is someone else out there who gives a damn.

In the era of modern technology, the fact that a kid can just log on and hear a message from someone, especially if it’s a famous person they admire, is valuable.

But it’s kind of a lie.

It doesn’t get better, at least not on its own. Things can get better or they can get worse and things can swing wildly from one extreme to another through a person’s life. Further, a lot of those wild swings are well beyond the control of the individual. That’s just the truth.

I get why they went with the lie, though. A project called “If You’re Lucky Things Might Get Better But Also Maybe Not,” would probably suck and not be anywhere near as helpful as the current one.

The thing is, eventually, the truth comes out. The person who has been promised that things will magically get better at some later date, are going to reach that later date and if things haven’t gotten better they feel betrayed and lied to. Further, if that was a lie, if things don’t just get better, then what else is a lie? Are the other things that the belief things would get better was guarding against true too? How does a person deal wit that?

I think this is a lovely poem along the same lines as It Gets Better but the end troubles me.

They were wrong?

Here’s the thing, the bottom line of all of these programs and poems and everything else is “don’t believe them.” They’re more evolved versions of “sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you.”

I was bullied every day in high school. Every single day someone told me I was stupid or ugly or worthless. Every day someone called me fat. Every day someone made fun of my hair or my teeth or my intellect or whatever other thing they thought would hurt me. And it worked. They hurt me every day. It still hurts. More than any broken bone, the names don’t just hurt, they poison and that poison festers forever.

If the best we can come up with is the admonition not to believe the bullies then we’re failing those who are bullied. We’re pushing responsibility onto the victims instead of, you know, treating the wounds. We’re basically telling people that they have to feel better rather than helping them recover from the difficulties and move on.

Mental scars don’t work that way.

In reality it may not get better, because bullies keep bullying beyond school. What we should be telling kids is not it gets better but that they can get better, they get stronger, they learn and they grow and they reach a point where they have the personal autonomy to avoid many of the people who are bullying them.

Beyond that, rather than just telling people that things will get better on their own we need to make them better and not just for children.

One of the biggest problems with bullying is the fact that the people who aren’t the target of the bullying, even if they are not the bully, will just stand by and let it happen. That makes sense because of the fear that speaking out will make them a target. that makes sense but it’s not OK and simply have to stop doing it. By we, I mean all of us. Everybody needs to learn how to make this kind of behavior unacceptable.

With bullies that’s actually really easy. Their whole thing is fear. They use fear to control their targets and the implied fear of becoming a target to control bystanders. They bully in the first place as a result of their own fears.

The only way to really combat the bullying is to speak up and speak out against it. Anyone who isn’t doing that is part of the problem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Stephanie Whiteside permalink
    February 21, 2013 9:13 AM

    I think there must be something along the lines of — it’s not that it gets better necessarily, but you get choices.

    The thing about school for me was always that I had no choice. I had to be in school, and my parents were of the ‘ignore it and it will go away’ school of thought, so I had few options in terms of even changing classes or schools. It was suck it up and get through.

    The revelation for me about adulthood was choices — even if I couldn’t stop bullies, I had options to change my situation. Not always easy options, and many of them that came from privilege, but I think maybe that’s a little bit of what some of these campaigns are trying to get at.

    • February 21, 2013 1:05 PM

      I think you;’re right and I think the important thing to make clear is that the options aren’t always easy. If you have a bullying boss you’ve got to speak out and when you do, be prepared for negative consequences.

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