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Heart & Soul: Another look at bullying

It seems like just about every week, we hear about another young man or woman who has committed suicide as a result of bullying.

Unless you were thin, rich and gorgeous growing up, you can probably remember being teased and tormented when you were in school. Of course, not too thin, and not too rich. But if you were overweight, wore glasses, not good in sports or not part of the “in crowd,” you were probably bullied. And if there was any chance you could be LGBT, even if no one in the world knew for sure, including yourself, you went to the top of the list.

I bet it has always been this way. It certainly was when I was in high school in the 1970s. Thankfully, we hear more about it now so ideally we can identify when someone is having a problem. We’ve certainly come a long way, at least in big city North America, if not in acceptance, at least in tolerance.

So why is it still so much of a problem in other areas?

Maybe because for one thing, in 2013, everyone gets to express their opinion publicly now. Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media give us the opportunity to say what we think, and find out what other people think.

The good news about freedom of speech is people can say whatever they want. The bad news is they can say whatever they want. So from a very young age, we hear bullies like the Westboro Baptist Church, the Roman Catholic Church, conservative politicians and others talk about how we are inherently evil. And for a young person, if a minister says something, it must be the truth, right?

(It is a slippery slope on which I stand when I state that ministers don’t always know what they are talking about, but they don’t. More about that in a minute.)

For the young man or woman struggling with coming out — to themselves as well as to the world, they may be hearing about how they are somehow bad and wrong from all over, beginning to build a foundation of guilt and shame. So unlike the days before all this wonderful technology, they can be bombarded from all sides with hurtful and heart-breaking talk, suggesting that their loving relationships, and even their very existence, are mistakes. So when someone teases them, they take it to heart.

So what can be done? First of all, we who recognize the truth, that there is nothing wrong and everything right with everyone who is LGBT, can use the same Social Media to reinforce each person’s worth and value. We can remind our young people, as well as ourselves, that while everyone has an opinion, it is only that. Their opinion. The Religious Right may be very happy to tell you their interpretation of the Bible related to homosexuality, but that is all it is — their interpretation. I have one that is very different, but that is a separate story. So while someone is speaking their truth, remember it is not your truth, unless it makes sense for you.

I would also suggest that it is time for parents to take some responsibility for their children. Who taught the bullies that this was acceptable?

Thank goodness for organizations like the It Gets Better Project and the Born This Way Foundation that encourage our young people to admit, accept and embrace who they are.

But when we know, and feel, that our lives mean what we say they mean, we can look upon someone else’s rantings as just background noise. Because truly, that is all it is.

Take care of yourself.

Attention, Wisconsin LGBT community

If you are in the Milwaukee, Wisc. area, please join me this weekend. I’ll be speaking and conducting a workshop based on my book, on Sunday at Spiritual Living of Greater Milwaukee, and a workshop Monday night at the Milwaukee LGBT Center.

The Rev. Jerry Troyer, a native of San Diego, is the senior minister of Joyful Living Church, a non-denominational New Thought spiritual community. He is the author of the new book, “Coming Out To Ourselves … Admitting, Accepting And Embracing Who We Truly Are. Troyer and his husband, also named Jerry, live in the San Diego area with their golden retriever Roxie. Visit his website HERE.