It's anti-bullying week here in the UK, and I thought it a good time to remind ourselves about kindness. Bullying is inexusable, and it can be hugely injurious to its targets. But let's also think carefully about what makes a bully, and how to stop them before they start.
I was once a schoolteacher, and I have dealt with bullies in the classroom. They can be disruptive, and do serious damage to young people's self-esteem at an early age. I have found that most bullies aren't born that way; they are usually victims themselves. Whether they have abusive parents or were bullied by older siblings themselves, or perhaps even made to feel like an "outsider" by their peers, they almost always are acting out of a sense of low self-esteem.
Let's not just treat the symptoms by exacting revenge on bullies, but treat the causes.
I partially blame the culture, which makes kids feel inadequate if they don't have the right pair of trainers or the latest fad in jeans. Our children are exposed to so much advertising, they have begun to measure themselves against the airbrushed fantasy world of television and magazines. It is our job to make them realise that individuality is more valuable than crass consumerism; to give them pride in themselves, not in what they own.
We need to have compassion for all children; not just the bullies' victims, but the bullies too. Kindness itself has a healing and regenerative quality, and it also tends to breed more kindness.