There will always be someone different from you. Always. Sometimes the differences will be obvious… skin color, physical scars, deformities, how someone walks, cultural clothing. Other times, the differences will not be as obvious… such as a person’s religion.
It doesn’t matter if a person is different from you. What matters is what you do with those differences. Do you see them as something that makes the person unique and special? Do you recognize how much you can learn and grow by not labeling a person?
We hear so many stories these days where hate an anger play a major role. Most of it is because we are threatened by those who are not like us, but that has to stop! Your generation is the one who can make the change and choose to do better for the rest of us, to build a world that is more kind, gentle, forgiving and understanding. None of this is easy. We feel comfortable with those like us and uncomfortable by those who are different, and we are a society that does not do “uncomfortable” very well.
How can you be part of a change?
Be brave. Don’t follow your friends if they are bullying someone because they are different. Instead, stand up against them. People who bully are not the kind of people you want to have in your life because the day may come when they decide they don’t like something about you. Remember, bullying doesn’t have to be words. It could be physical: hitting, kicking, scratching or any type of physical attack. Bullying can also be causing damage to another’s belongings or spreading false stories.
Pay attention to what you or others post on social media. Cyber bullying is more subtle.
Talk to a teacher or parent about any bullying you see going on…IMMEDIATELY!
Notice the kids around you, at school, work or church. Is there someone who stands off to the side or sits alone? Go and talk to them. Invite them to eat lunch with you. Invite them into your friend circle. You may save a life!
Don’t tolerate hate, whether it is overtly conveyed or more subtle. Symbols such as a swastika or confederate flag, signify periods of tremendous hatred in our country. Friends who make fun of someone else’s race or religion, is practicing hate.
Treat others as you wish to be treated! This practice alone makes all the above very simple to achieve. When in doubt, ask yourself this simple question, “If this were said about or done to me, how would I feel?” If you can’t answer in a positive way, most likely it is wrong!
Some of these things aren’t easy, but usually those things that end up making a real difference in the world, don’t fall under easy.
You can be a different voice and leader in your school and with your friends.
Someone has to be willing, and it might as well be YOU!!
About the Author: Paula Miles is a Member of the Irise Leadership Institute and a graduate of Clarion University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication. She is a leader in multiple education and religious sectors. Having spent years cultivating her skills and relationships through family, friends and Christian faith; iRise Leadership Institute allows her to apply her connections and many difficult life experiences to help eradicate suicide. Most recently, Paula was a contributing author to the anthology, Unsung Heroes; Deconstructing Suicide Through Stories of Triumph, published in December, 2016. Learn more about the Irise Leadership Institute.