By Gail Lipsitz
What happens to us after we die? I recently saw a film that explores this question. In “Defending Your Life,” Albert Brooks portrays a way station after death where individuals must stand trial and be accountable for their failings on earth before they can progress to a better place. According to this film, the most serious human shortcoming is the failure to conquer your fears – a point which is illustrated through flashbacks to the central character’s life. One scene shows him as a boy who is unable to stand up to a bully on the playground – a painful scene he is forced to relive during his trial.
We can ask: why is the victim punished here, instead of the perpetrator? Children who have been bullied suffer not only from physical bruises, but also from damage to their self-esteem; many live with anxiety, fear, and lifelong scars.
More and more, parents, schools and mental health professionals are working together to raise awareness about the devastating effects of bullying. The “Baltimore Jewish Times” has featured the topic in several articles. Jewish Community Services here in Baltimore offers Prevention Education workshops on bullying for children, teens and adults in schools, synagogues, and other venues. Developed in collaboration with CHANA: A Jewish Response to Domestic Violence, these programs teach participants how to respond effectively when bullying occurs, whether one is a victim, onlooker, or concerned adult.
True, bullying among children has been getting a lot of attention. But bullying is not restricted to kids. We see plenty of adult bullying behavior around us. Have you experienced “road rage” or been tailed or forced out of your lane by an aggressive, speeding driver? Do you have a co-worker who uses intimidation and thinly veiled threats to cow fellow employees? Fear of jeopardizing their job leads some people to accede to unreasonable demands, but this is not as it should be. And what about bullying by a spouse? JCS Health Educator Colleen Brady Lippens says that this behavior is especially damaging because it is “often unseen and hidden. Spousal bullying is nothing short of emotional and psychological abuse.”
Education about the negative consequences of bullying needs to start in childhood and be reinforced during adolescence, to empower parents, children, school staff, and neighbors to prevent bullying and respond effectively when it occurs. Then we have hope of achieving a society founded on consideration and respect for each individual.
By Gail Lipsitz, Coordinator, Public Relations, Jewish Community Services.