The other day I saw a conversation which really upset me. One woman criticized the clothing she had seen a stranger wearing that morning. In response, several of the woman’s friends jokingly suggested the stranger was a hooker or a pole dancer.
Let’s call this what it is — bullying. It makes no difference that the woman who started and encouraged this string of insults is an adult and an upstanding member of the community.
It is critical that we recognize this behavior for what it is or we will never be able to help our children who are in dire need of our guidance. It makes no difference that the judged woman is probably unaware of what was said about her. The negative energy has been spewed into the Universe, and the nature of the commentary speaks to a pervasive attitude of acceptance of meanness and judgment.
Bullying is a national epidemic. In fact, it is so common, we have surpassed the need for anti-bullying campaigns and what we actually need is aggressive love-training. We must teach our children how to be good friends to one another. We have to teach them to do unto others as they would have others do unto them —
to speak nicely to each other,
to accept people who are different than them in some way,
to transfer feelings of jealousy into an appreciation for your fellow human being,
to give others the benefit of the doubt, and
to allow people to express themselves without being judged.
Children look to their parents and the other adults in their lives as examples of how to behave.
There are any number of reasons why a person might be dressed in a particular manner, one of which is personal taste. Or, maybe one of the unbelievably unkind things that were carelessly said about the stranger in this instance is in fact true.
I submit you can look to whatever religious or ethical code to which you adhere, and you will not find a prescription for publicly judging and denigrating another human being. Where is the compassion in that? Is that how you would like to be treated if you were wearing or doing something that someone else decided was not to their liking?
Haven’t we as women moved past judging each other based on attire? Moreover, is that how you would like your child to be treated by the other children at their school?
Here’s a good rule of thumb, if you would go visit the principal if another child did to your child what you have done to another person (say, for example, publicly ridiculing your child in the schoolyard because of their choice of clothing), then you as an adult shouldn’t do it either.
Tuesday was my son’s first day of fourth grade. When I was walking out of his room after putting him to bed, he called me back in and said he wanted to talk to me. I sat down on his bed, and he told me there was a new boy in his class who had just moved here from out West. He said the boy was really sad in the morning.
My heart sank, and I was just about to launch into a long lecture about how that boy must be feeling, and that my son, even though he has several of his closest friends in the class, should be nice to him, when my son continued:
“My friends and I sat with him at lunch today. He is really nice. We told him he was going to like his new school. I know this must be hard for him, missing his old friends and even his old house.”
I wanted to cry. My son has made me proud a thousand times over, but the maturity he and his friends showed was up there with some of the proudest moments I have felt.
This is the core of life – not what grades you make, not what you will be when you grow up, not where you go to school, not how much money you make, not where you live and not what you wear. The essence of living is the moments when the Universe gives you a choice and you decide who you are. In that moment, my son chose compassion.
I began painting “Love Training” the next morning with the intention of dedicating this painting to the effort of spreading awareness about teaching our children love lessons. I put on Pandora and typed in Brett Dennen, and the first song that randomly came on was Dennen’s beautiful song “Sydney” in which he promises to defend his friend against the people who are thoughtlessly and wrongly accusing her.
It would be easier for me not to write about what I saw, and just to stay out of it. But this is one of the moments for me when the Universe is asking me who I want to be. I have a daughter, and if anyone ever said such things about her based on the way she was dressed, I pray someone would stand up for her. I’m sending love out to those who I am writing about, and if they read this, I hope they look into their hearts and find a path to a more mindful and compassionate approach to this issue.