For the past week, the two of you have been heavy on my mind and the subject of my conversations with my two young daughters, who are nine and seven years old. They know how much I believe in the goodness of all people, and that I do not feel there is such a thing as a bad person, just bad choices.
I can't help but wonder if all of this has sunken in yet and if you understand the magnitude of your choices over the last year of your life. Whether you're ready for this scrutiny or not, whether your parents deny your involvement or not, one thing is certain: The world is watching and waiting for you to pay a price for the loss of an innocent life. That is the society in which we live. Someone needs to be held accountable. And, if you've done the things that you are being charged with doing, make no mistake, no matter what you're reasoning was for doing it, it was wrong. Wouldn't you feel the same way if Rebecca was your sister or best friend? You're about to feel what Rebecca felt each and every day of her life for those months leading up to her suicide -- like a target. Many of the people who spew verbal daggers and threats your way will feel their abuse toward you is justified and that you've asked for it. Your parents will be feeling it too, as their parental character will be butchered and stewed. The reality of your actions and choices may have yet to sink in, but one thing is for certain, your lives will never be the same.
I'm not one of the people who will be sending that anger and hate your way, even though I understand the inflammatory reaction to any tragic story like Rebecca's. Instead, I'd like to offer you another perspective: one of love and understanding, something that I have experienced firsthand as not only a youth mentor but as a former bully myself. My hope is that you can open your hearts briefly to allow this viewpoint in to see if it resonates with you.
First, you are not bad people. You do not have cold and heartless souls that are incapable of feeling empathy. You do not need to be sent away and never allowed to set foot in a school again. No, not based on my experiences. I believe that you are two individuals in a great deal of oppressed pain coupled with a destructive coping mechanism that projects your pain onto others. Further, you are lost in an identity crisis that you have no idea how to find your way out of, empowered by controlling and demoralizing others and numb to anything that makes you feel real emotion. Vulnerability to you is not an option, so asking for help or sharing your feelings is not something you're interested in. Besides, who could you possibly trust to share the real you with, right? And do you even know who the real you is? In layman's terms, I believe you are lost young ladies, consumed in yourselves and in a negativity so deep that it's virtually impossible to break the cycle -- kind of like being on a roller coaster that you don't know how to get off of.
I think it's safe to say that you've been knocked off that roller coaster, and you're now standing at this great precipice, facing your next set of choices. These next steps that you take, even with many people around you who will want to protect you from slipping even further into that destructive abyss, will be your most critical in shaping the rest of your life. And only you can make the decision to take this action. So where do you go from here? Inward.
First and foremost, find an adult that you respect and feel safe talking with, someone who you know is there to listen, not to judge, punish or betray your trust. You'll know who this individual is just by how comfortable you'll feel in their presence. Opening up may not be easy for you, but trust that talking about your life journey will begin the process toward understanding why you feel the way you do about things and who you identify as. Do your best to own your feelings and hold yourself accountable for things you said and did and not point fingers at others about how their actions triggered your behaviors. Once you find your voice, you'll become more comfortable with the process.
If you find that you have no one to talk with openly, therein lies one of your biggest underlying issues. There are many trustworthy adults out there who understand you and want to help, such as my dear friend, Dean Nixon, a youth mentor and life coach from the Turning Leaf Wellness Center in Utah, who has helped hundreds of young people, just like you, who have lost their way. He will jump on a plane in a heartbeat to give you the support you need. Just know that help is out there, when you are ready to ask for it.
Once you find your way -- and I do believe that you will in time -- asking for forgiveness and forgiving yourselves will be your biggest challenge. Nothing can bring Rebecca back, but you can be sure that her life and story are not forgotten by sharing your journey toward finding yourself. And there are so many ways in which you can make a difference, if you so choose. Allowing us to know you and to understand the circumstances that have lead you to make the choices you have could have a powerful impact on our ability to bring this crisis to an end and to begin healing individuals who too are in the grips of pain with a similar coping mechanism as you.
Imagine what we could do together if each and every person who identifies as a bully could step forward and say out loud, "I am a bully and I would like to change!" I believe that as a society, if we can first accept that pain is expressed in many forms and learn how to identify these behaviors as a cry for help, then we can create a safe space for those people struggling with this behavior to come forward and ask for help. As for the term "bully" itself, it tends to provoke a reaction so inflamed that creating a safe space is not possible, therefore we may need to re-evaluate the "labels" altogether. Only then will this crisis find an end.
My daughters and I believe in you and support you every step of the way. It's time to do the right thing and begin your journey to the real you, leaving behind your bully.
Peace & Love,