Bullying is at the center of our news world yet again, as Miami Dolphin’s player Richie Incognito was removed from the team indefinitely this week after revelations that he bullied and publicly shamed fellow teammate, Jonathan Martin.
He peppered Martin with threats of bodily harm and used racial slurs to further dig salt in the wound. In short, Incognito was a dick. It’s awful that one human being would stoop to a level that would see them humiliate another person in that way, let alone a teammate, but it seems clear that it happened. So deeply stung was Martin by the treatment that he up and left the team.
Well shame on Richie Incognito.
But while we’re at it, shame on Jonathan Martin, too.
I won’t for a second absolve Richie Incognito, or any other ‘bully’ for being a blubbering asshole. There’s no place for it. But when we pin all of the blame on the bully and do nothing but coddle the victim, we’re missing an equally large problem.
We (people, everyone) are soft.
And the roots are in our childhood. Everyone was a winner; the kid who scored 20 soccer goals in a season and the loser who kept tripping over his own shoelaces got the same trophy. Every team made the playoffs, and the worst performing team didn’t have to go home in last place, because they were the 9th runner-up.
Then, all the kids entered the 4th grade class art contest, didn’t color within a single line, and got rewarded with a participation ribbon because they tried hard.
In 5th grade, they got picked on, but because their mother was still too busy breastfeeding them, they never knew what to do when one of the other kids didn’t follow the “do unto others” rule.
Bullying has always existed, but it only became national news because today’s soccer moms and dads have done a great job of loving their kids, but an awful job of raising them.
Kids have been taught that confrontation is a bad thing, that tolerance is synonymous with being spineless, and that some external factor is responsible for whatever hardships they face.
Well, life is showing them otherwise. They don’t win every time. They’re not good at everything. And not everyone is nice to them. So while it’s a nice idea to insulate our kids from pain and obstacles, it’s doing a huge disservice to their emotional growth.
The kids who are raised properly might not always get the most hugs and gold stars, but they’ll have something more valuable – the courage to stand up for themselves.