bullying, community, genuineness, love, rejection, Uncategorized

How to encourage people who have been bullied or otherwise oppressed

(*trigger warning*: references/link about suicide, abuse, bullying )

I have had a lot of interactions with people and sometimes even their families, who have experienced or are experiencing bullying and other forms of abuse and oppression. Many children are being bullied at their schools currently. When I was in school, I was often the target of bullying myself.  Recently, I read an article about a boy who was bullied to death, not only by people at his school, but also by the manager who he worked under. (source: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/02/us/suicide-dairy-queen-charge-trnd/). And, in my opinion, some of the comments made from another website featuring the same story, were very disheartening, and revealed a lack of compassion and empathy for what the boy was going through, and his family that is experiencing the pain of his loss and suffering right now.  So, how do we encourage those being bullied or otherwise oppressed, instead of leading them to think life is no longer worth living or that no one cares about them?

I’m not a mental health professional or any other type of doctor, but I have had experiences on both sides of the coin–being bullied and being able to encourage those who have been bullied or otherwise abused. So, here’s what I learned.

1.) Be there for the victim/survivor.-This does not mean be there for them one time, but it means being willing to invest in their lives in some way.  It also does not mean being physically present with them, but your mind be somewhere else.  But it does mean being fully invested-physically and emotionally to what and how they are feeling and if possible, why they are feeling that way.  It means at the very least listening to their needs and concerns without judgement or condemnation.

2.) Validate how they are feeling, and never invalidate them! -Validating them means affirming what they are feeling (You don’t necessarily have to agree with what they are feeling though!) and affirming their worth as a person.  Never, ever say to them in any type of wording, that what they are going through is “not a big deal” or “just get over it!” First of all, that they trust you to tell you something painful is big, and you don’t want to ruin their trust in you. Secondly, if they could “get over it,” they probably would without telling you in so many words that they need help.  An example of validating someone would be if your daughter is being bullied at school and she confides in you about it, you could say, ” I’m sorry that [name of bully] is hurting you. I will be here for you and help you through this so that you don’t have to suffer at his/her hands anymore. You are an infinitely valuable person and child. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.” (And then actually following through on your promise to help the child through the situation by a.) talking to the teachers/administrators b.) talking to the bully’s parent(s).

3.) Ask if there is anything you personally can do to help (and other open-ended questions). Ask, but don’t interrogate. Asking if there is anything *you* personally can do to help them will help them to know that you are there for them, but it doesn’t burden them to be obligated to accept any offer of help. However, it also lets them know you care and have their best interests at heart. It also allows you to know what type of help they may need.

4.) Make sure you are not getting drained yourself. -Contrary to some religious circles, I do believe that you need to make time for self-care, otherwise you will find yourself idolizing caring for that person and will not allow yourself to be recharged. Let’s face it, helping someone else through a difficult time, can be draining  not only for the person going through said experience, but for you as well.  It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help them though. This just means you will need some time for rest as well. Even God rested from His creation on the Seventh Day!

This could mean anything from taking a literal nap, to doing something you enjoy just for you, for a time.

Remember, helping the oppressed and bullied, though it can be difficult, can also be rewarding. More importantly, it can save another person’s life! So, who can you encourage and support today?



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