Today I read a news story about 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick. Young Rebecca was reportedly bullied online for months and ganged up on by 15 girls. This ordeal pushed Rebecca to commit suicide.
Before the suicide came depression. Before the depression came the shredding of Rebecca’s sense of identity, self-worth, and self-esteem. Before the shredding came the let-down: disapproval by her peers.
In “girl world” approval from peers means so much. This is an unfortunate reality. How can we fix this?
My heart goes out to Rebecca’s family. I pray for their healing. I also pray for the other young people involved and their families.
The Question Is…
Why are girls (middle and high school girls, especially) so cruel to one another? Our society rewards bad girl behavior until it leaps off our television screens and into our schools and communities.
In sociology, we discuss the Thomas theorem: “Situations that are defined as real are real in their consequences.” We can discuss this in so many ways. But let’s look at what many of us miss.
Don’t simply be a mentor. Be a light.
Situations that seem trivial to you as an adult can be real crises to young girls. However they are defined to that particular girl, that’s what it is, even if we don’t see it the same way. She has built up faith in her perspective, no matter how skewed, and her resulting feels are real and valid. And these crises carry consequences that are just as real, with damaging and life-changing effects.
Many of us adults lack the mental fortitude and social support to challenge situations and redefine them as something that cannot prosper against us. Yet we expect young people who don’t have the age or experience we have to magically “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” when we cannot and will not do the same.
There is an educational gap, and I believe it is something the schools cannot fix. Are the people of God awake? Our children are dying and their wills, hearts and minds are being broken. Don’t simply be a mentor. Be a light.
The Trouble with Suicide
Do not be deceived. Suicide is not just a personal choice that affects one person. It’s not solely about what’s going on in someone’s mind. Social factors, including the environment and the positive/negative influence of other people play a huge part.
There is a spirit of suicide enveloping our young people.
Suicide is a societal and spiritual problem. There is a spirit of suicide enveloping our young people. There are so many lies and distortions that have been fed to the person who thinks about, attempts, or commits suicide. Remember, s/he has defined these situations—even the lies—as being real and attached value to them. How do we help someone to tear those down when many times we are oblivious to the fact s/he feels that way…until it’s too late?
If I can borrow from the public health arena, prevention in the form of awareness is good. The message gets out there. We call it suicide prevention. Now for the application. How do we encourage girls (and boys) to speak up when bullied? Even online?
There is a level of shame involved. Just like in many other instances of abuse, the abuser has a way of making the one being abused feel as though s/he is being petty about the acts, are “crazy” or will not be believed. Also, it takes guts to admit to someone you hate yourself, you’re unhappy, or that you have thought about or attempted to harm yourself. On a spiritual note, we understand the enemy loves to kill us softly with silence, especially when there is hurt and abuse involved.
Reach Just One
I may not can heal the world, save the planet, or be a super hero, but perhaps with the love of Christ, I can reach just one girl.
Sometimes we realize a little too late that bullies typically have low self-esteem, and are driven to make others feel as bad as they do, even to the point of death. Hurting people hurt people.