The song of the bullied
Have you ever gotten a song stuck in your head? You know, a song you haven’t heard for a while. Suddenly and unexpectedly it pops into your head and goes into repeat cycle.
It is funny, but a little frustrating. Over and over it plays, making you want to sing along. Often it is at inopportune moments, like when you are at work or school. When you are supposed to be concentrating on something else.
Kids who are bullied experience something similar to this. But the song they hear is not so funny. Its words include lyrics written by their bullies and sang over and over again.
You see, the bully assembles the most painful and embarrassing words to each victim’s ballad.
Lyrics may include phrases like:
“What a wimp!”
“You’re a freak!”
“Why don’t you go kill yourself.”
Those words, repeated whenever the bully has a chance, collect in the mind of the victim like a recording.
These lyrics also come back at the most inopportune moments for bullying victims, filling their minds. Moments when they are feeling down, feeling like they have failed or feeling unloved. Over and over again, the mental song plays.
It is as if the bully was in control of the the victim’s mental jukebox and had a fistful of quarters just for them.
But while a fun song can lift someone up, these lyrics pull the listeners farther down. Down farther than they are at that moment the song begins to play. Sometimes it leaves them in a pit of despair.
I know the Song of the Bullied, because it plays in my head.
For 10 years, a group of bullies sang a song of cruelty to me growing up. Fortunately, today, the song doesn’t play in my mental jukebox as often as it used to, thanks to the help of some counselors years ago. But on occasion, when I’m feeling low, it does begin to play again. I can get rid of it now, but takes some effort.
In recent years, I have begun to give presentations on bullying. Many people don’t understand the power of written or spoken words.
Sometimes people say, “Bullying is just a little teasing. Kids will be kids.” Yet how can telling someone to go kill themselves be just a “little teasing”? How can labels like “freak” or “slut” be considered a harmless joke?
And who are they learning these words from?
We are all responsible for the songs we leave with others. Please, think about your own lyrics as you sing. Your words can impact others for years to come.
Just as important: if you know someone who has been bullied, take some time to teach them a new song.
Kurt J. Kolka is a freelance writer and cartoonist from Gaylord, Michigan. He is author of a recently published book, “Bullying is No Laughing Matter.”