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‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.’ I was taught this saying as a kid, but as I got older, I realized this saying was far from true. It should say, ‘sticks and stones may break my bones and words can cut me deeply' because words do hurt. In fact, a person may be able to heal from physical harm, but the hurtful words of another person can be painful to the core and hard to forget. It’s no wonder the Bible says ‘… the tongue is a small member of the body that can set a forest ablaze!' (James 3:5). Today, this scripture has proved to be true. The power of the tongue is often not used to praise God or render respect and pleasantries to others, but to cause pain, especially by way of bullying.

Acts of bullying can take place almost anywhere nowadays: in school, work, and even online. Growing up, there wasn’t a lot of discussion about bullying as it is today. Bullying was something you were told to either ignore, tell the teacher or fight back. Despite bullying being viewed as a phase in the early days, the emotional and mental effects can stick with people throughout their lifetime.

What is bullying? Bullying often starts with verbal abuse, such as name-calling, teasing, and threats. Like a match dropped in a forest, bullying can quickly escalate to deliberate social isolation, malicious pranks, violence, and even murder! What causes a bully to harass others?

A bully often has discriminatory feelings against people of a different race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or anyone appearing to be weak from their perspective. A bully enjoys oppressing others to uplift themselves, but the tyranny only masks their deeply entrenched insecurities. Perhaps they’ve never had a positive role-model, or it could be that they themselves were once bullied or never told they were loved. Thus, the saying, ‘hurt people hurt people.’

As a parent, how can you identify bullying?
• Be observant and ask questions if you notice something different about your child’s behavior.
• Show genuine concern if you spot unexplainable injuries. Try not to get upset or your child may hold back from telling you the truth. Be compassionate.
• If your child starts complaining about being sick to avoid school, find out what’s going on.

What about workplace bullying? Workplace bullying is often elusive, difficult to prove, and hard to receive support. Unlike other forms of harassment in the workplace, this type of bullying can be camouflaged. The bully will do just enough to appear professional, so the employee/coworker cannot easily prove that they’re being harassed. What are some signs of workplace bullying?

  • Belittling your opinion or constantly undermining your work by nitpicking.
    • Excluding you socially.
    • Manipulation for personal favors. For instance, the personal favors may start small. A boss may say, ‘if you don’t mind escorting my kid to his soccer game, I’ll give you tomorrow off.’ The next time it may be, ‘Can you shred this letter from corporate? Just tell them I never got it.’ Out of fear of termination, you may succumb to the bully’s personal favors.
    There are many other signs of bullying.  As a rule of thumb, if it doesn’t feel right then it’s not right. So, what can you do?
    • Diffuse a bully’s power over you by saying something they least expect. If the bully tries to make you upset by criticizing your work, smile and say, ‘I’ve always admired your ability to catch the little things. Would you mind sharing some pointers?’ If your child is being teased for being overweight, he or she could say, ‘I guess I could lose a few pounds.’
  • Try role-playing real-life situations on how you would respond to bullying at work, and then teach your child how to respond to bullying at school. Remember, bullies prey on those they feel are weak, so teach your child to speak with confidence and to be a little more assertive. Also, engage in activities together that will help build their confidence.
  • Stand up for yourself! You’re a human being deserving of respect! When your child sees your confidence they’re likely to imitate you. Teach them that fear makes us hold back from doing what is right. Doing what is right at work or at school includes: reporting bullying, responding firmly, walking away, or fighting back if necessary. This will prove to the bully that you’re not a pushover, and you just may win their respect.

Always remember that bullying is NEVER acceptable! Something can be done about it. If you’re being bullied, report it immediately!
For more information on bullying, visit:

*(This blog became a published article with Sistah’s Place Magazine, and also Selena was invited to speak at the Love Forward Movement Organization campaign rally against bullying. Visit Selena’s Facebook Page for pictures and videos from the event)

Author Selena Haskins

Selena Haskins is the author of her best-selling book A River Moves Forward. In 2013, recognized Selena as a Top 100 Author.

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