Empathy is one of the most important traits a human can possess. The ability to “place yourself in someone else’s shoes” is a quality not everyone is capable of. Some would argue that a higher E.Q. (emotional quotient) is more desirable to have than a higher I.Q. (intelligence quotient).
We all have different feelings. We all go through different daily routines. We all grow up in different households. Being in control of your emotions, learning what they are, and how to cope with them will no doubt help you succeed in other aspects of your life. Before you can be empathetic, you must be able to practice self-control of your “own” feelings.
Bullying is something most people have dealt with at least a couple of times, and in many instances many times. People who bully have not learned to control their own emotions. Therefore, they have a hard time showing empathy towards others.
People are bullied for numerous reasons. Maybe they’re shorter than most, skinnier, or heavier than most. Maybe their family is poorer than most, maybe they’re a different skin color, maybe they have acne, maybe they have a disability. Maybe they have a lisp, maybe they walk different. Maybe they have a speech impediment, or maybe they can’t learn as fast as others. Maybe they have a cleft lip, or maybe they’re missing a limb. Maybe they’re in a wheelchair, or maybe they run slower than most. Maybe they haven’t bathed in a couple of days. Maybe they haven’t shaved in a few days. Maybe they have to take the bus. Maybe their dad (or mom) ran out on them. Maybe they’ve never met their parent(s). Maybe they were adopted, maybe they were a crack baby. Maybe their parents look different. Maybe their siblings look different. Maybe they’re just “average.” Maybe they live in a small apartment. Maybe they’ve never been on vacation. Maybe they fail every test. Maybe they’re not perfect.
Growing up, I was either the shortest, or second shortest kid in my grade. I had the biggest buck teeth you’ve ever seen this side of Bugs Bunny. My skin, was pale as a ghost, and covered in freckles. I was wearing Harry Potter bi-focal glasses by the time I was in 5th grade. By 8th grade I was in an orthopedic brace for scoliosis. Click here to read about my scoliosis. I am still, to this day, one of the most hairy men I’ve ever seen (thank goodness for electric razors). I have suffered through asthma as a child, and numerous bouts of heartburn as an adult. I have earned what some may call a “spare tire” around my waist. I have recently found varicose veins in my legs. I still break out with acne. I still wear glasses when I don’t feel like putting my contacts in. I still have scoliosis. My skin is still freckle-covered and pale. My face never quite filled out my teeth like I wanted it to. I pull muscles putting on my socks sometimes. My co-workers sometimes tease me about my larger belly. My kids joke about it as well.
Was I bullied as a child? What do you think? Weren’t we all?
Was I a bully? Hmmm…
Thinking back deep into my past, the short answer is “yes.” I was. I’ve never had hurtful “intentions.” However, I’m sure I was hurtful. Bullying hurts. I’m not sure why I was an occasional bully (maybe I was redirecting my hurt emotions to others). I wish I could go back in time, and find everyone I’ve been a bully to and say I’m sorry. I wish I could explain to them that I just wanted them to feel a little bit of what I felt every day. I want them to know I never meant to hurt them, and if I did—I’m truly sorry.
The reality is, I can’t go back in time. I can’t take back things I’ve said 20 years ago and make things better. I do have children now, however, so I feel like I can still do some good. I vow, to teach all my children empathy. I never want them to feel more privileged than others, or that they’re better than others. I want them to learn that we are all unique. We are all different. We are all here leading our own lives. What type of place they have in society, in the end, will be up to them and their circumstance(s).
Some people will have an easier time growing up and becoming successful than others. I, like most parents I’m sure, want my children to be a part of that group. I want them to find their way, be a good friend, and most importantly be empathetic.
The past couple days a video has been circulating on Facebook and YouTube. It’s a very moving video (about 5 minutes long) posted by a (then) 13 year-old young man named Jonah Mowry. He tells a very emotional story and I encourage you to watch it. Click here to check out Jonah’s video. If you feel comfortable enough, I encourage you to share it with your children. Sometimes it takes a video like this to bring up a discussion that otherwise may not have been. Either way, it is most definitely an important topic, and a great conversation starter.
I showed it to my oldest two daughters tonight, and I am going to be giving them a “homework assignment,” if you will. I know the video really hit home with Ashleigh (a classmate of hers took their own life a little more than 6 months ago, and just last week, a local weatherman took his, as well). Click here to read my blog about her classmate. They are going to make a similar video (depending on its content will determine whether or not I post it online). If I choose to post it, I will add the link to this same blog. In the meantime, I think my wife and I will do the same.
Thank you for reading!
P.S. Thank you Jonah! You have inspired many…