This post is inspired by a clip I saw from today’s episode of This Morning. The clip was of Philip and Holly interviewing a mother whose teenage daughter took her own life just 2 weeks ago, aged only 14. The mother explained that they discovered only after her death that she had been been the victim of relentless online bullying, which led to her suicide. The (exceptionally brave!!) mother described her daughter as a bright, vivacious, happy girl who always looked out for other people. And yet the girl was bullied so badly over social media – from name calling to nasty and mean comments getting inside her head – that she felt she had no alternative than to take her own life. It was heartbreaking to watch and very difficult not to get emotional listening her grief stricken mother.
But this type of story is far too common. The other lady sat on the This Morning sofa was also the mother of a boy who took his own life for similar reasons last year. It’s happens so often, and it’s just not right. It shouldn’t be this hard to be kind.
Bullying is always terrible, whatever form it takes; whether physical, verbal, in person or online. Cyber bullying is interesting however in that a lot of the time, people probably don’t even consider themselves to be bullying someone. You’re so remote from the situation, that you don’t see what impact your one sentence text could have. You don’t see what your ‘bit of banter’ in the group chat is doing to someone’s self esteem. You don’t see that you’re the tenth person to say something nasty to that person in the one day. You don’t see the consequences of what you’re saying – possibly until it’s too late.
So why is it so easy to be mean or nasty? As the second mother on This Morning, who’s been campaigning in schools against bullying since her son died, said: Why is being kind considered ‘not cool’? How did that happen? Has this always been the case or is it getting worse? She made a point that ‘role models'(??) on reality tv get more coverage for being nasty or mean or rude than the ones who are nice, and she has a point. It normalises it, and kids (or adults for that matter) think it’s fine to make fun of someone or be mean to them. And it’s so not.
In band last week, the person doing devotions mentioned that it was apparently ‘random acts of kindness day’ – but made the comment that we shouldn’t need a day set aside to be kind, and that it’s really quite sad that it’s even a thing. And it’s so true. Not just as Christian’s, but as humans beings, we shouldn’t need to be told to be kind. Why is it seemingly so difficult?!
I’m not claiming that I’m perfect or that I’ve never said anything nasty about someone – I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t. Plus it’s very easy to get sucked up in the moment and say something when in a certain group that you’d never say if you weren’t with them – I’ve been there many times. And while it’s easy to forget, stories like this really make you conscious of just how much of an impact what you say and do actually can have. But it shouldn’t take a tragic story like this to make you realise that. It should be obvious that being kind is better than being nasty.
If you’ve read anything on my blog before you’ll know I’m not great at face to face interaction, but I am a fan of social media and texting. And if I see that someone is struggling, I will frequently text or message to say I’m thinking about them, or I hope they’re ok – regardless of how close I am to the person. (It’s actually something I think inherited from my mum, cos she’s always doing the same!) Sometimes I worry people think I’m odd, but I’d much rather they thought I was strange for sending them a kind message and caring, than saying something nasty or being horrible and ignoring them. You never really know what people are going through, and your message could be the thing that tips them over the edge, or makes their day. It’s up to you which way you tip the scales.
Never underestimate the impact a kind one line message could have. I actually got a text tonight that said ‘How are you today my friend?’ And the gratitude I felt when reading it – upon seeing that someone was interested and that they cared – was great. And actually, not only does being kind benefit the people you are kind to, but from a selfish point of view, it usually makes you feel pretty nice too.
This is a pretty messy post, but I think it’s clear what the message of it is. And I would encourage everyone – young or old – to listen. Be kind. Always.