Parenting

The value of being excellent to each other in the age of bullying

In the wake of recent bullying-related suicides, here's a challenge to be more compassionate.

Photo: CraigRJD/iStockphoto

On Wednesday a 15-year-old B.C. girl named Amanda died. She wasn’t involved in a car accident, she didn’t have a terminal illness, she took her own life as a result of bullying. She posted a devastating black-and-white video using cue cards to tell the story of her struggle with bullying.

This has become a hot headline within Canada, but sadly, this isn’t an isolated situation. It’s a global catastrophe.

In March, eighth grader Eden Wormer hung herself in Washington after two years of torment from a classmate. Prior to her death, she posted on her Facebook page that she loved all her haters.

In April, an Australian girl named Olivia took her life after several suicide attempts. She put herself out there with videos and heartfelt words depicting her struggle with depression on Tumblr. Instead of compassion, she was taunted for expressing her emotional strife. Some commenters actually encouraged her to kill herself.

Bullying is nothing new, and the list of casualties because of it is sadly long. With social media playing such a role in everyday life it acts as a catalyst for a new brand of bullying — cyber. Facebook and YouTube are scary places. It is a place where people hide behind their screens and make fun of others for no reason. This is unacceptable. It’s true, growing up is hard, kids are cruel, and trying to find yourself isn’t easy but it doesn’t need to be deadly.

Last weekend I attended the funeral of a 24-year-old friend who died in a bicycle accident. Courtney glowed. She was a force to be reckoned with, soap-and-water beautiful but more importantly, her soul was resplendent. She was the essence of who anyone could ever strive to be. The definition of a good person, always kind and never, ever judgmental.

At the end of the funeral, we were challenged to go and plant seeds similar to the ones Courtney had sown in her short life: to love and not judge, to be kind and go out and be a light in the world. It really struck a chord with me. Who do I want to be and who do I want my future children to be? I realized that compassion isn’t taught, it is demonstrated through our actions.

It’s shown through the patience you have while you wait for someone to parallel park. It’s expressed in the way you hold the door for someone, or smile at an elderly person at the grocery store who might be holding up your day. It’s when you’re slow to get angry and quick to be encouraging. No one is perfect, but we can all strive to be loving.

John Mayer famously sang that love is a verb. It’s something that you do, and it’s something that is emulated. Our future generation needs to know they are loved. And they are deserving of love no matter what other kids say. How we speak at home around little ears makes a big impression. If you go home and say something negative or judgmental in front of your child, it sets a standard that it’s OK.

I’m no better than anyone else, and there have been times that I haven’t strived to be the better person. I’ve been mean and talked about people behind their backs and I’ve been cruel at the expense of someone else. There’s always going to be that kid at school (or colleague at work) who is mean. We can teach our kids to stand tall and not be a spectator to bullying, to take action and try to help.

In my house we’ve adopted a motto from the ‘90s cult classic film, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: Be excellent to each other. This is a challenge to myself and I’m extending it to you. Demonstrate this to your children, your friends — even strangers. Be excellent to everyone, strive to be loving, compassionate and kind.

It’s not always easy but maybe it could help save a life.

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