Get tissues - you'll need 'em.
This 14 year-old kid's pain is so raw it not only made me cry, I felt a huge, aching hole in my middle.
In the aftermath of this video, which Jonah eventually posted on his FaceBook page went viral (over 7 million hits), what's been going on?
First off, Jonah is doing okay. He's still in contact with his friends who moved on to high school he's made a lot of new friends at middle school. His parents now know that he is gay, and love him anyway. He's made a couple more videos that show a happy, goofy, normal kid.
And some other videos have surfaced, made prior to the "What's Goin On" video, some that show him making fun of kids with learning disabilities, and others, and there have been accusations that the whole video was a fake.
I watched it again. Cried some more. The range of emotions displayed by this kid, as he made this video... well, if it's fake, this 14 year old kid is a better actor than Meryl Streep. I believe, as he recorded it, Jonah was truly scared and hurting.
Does that rule out the possibility of him being (for the most part) okay now? Or that he might have not just been bullied, but been a bully himself in the past? Of course not. People - especially teenagers - can be anywhere on a whole roller-coaster of emotions. If we're 500 feet high now, and ground level two seconds later, doesn't mean we've gotten off the roller-coaster.
When we think of bullies, emotional abusers, victims, bystanders and the (rare but not unknown) heroes in the abstract, we tend to put them into neat little boxes. Everybody has to fit into one category, and there can be no cross-over.
Yet... that's not the way life works. In real life, there is cross-over.
One of the things that makes an abuser so hard to leave is that those of us in such a relationship often witness their pain. We know they are genuinely hurting. We imagine, if we could only find the key, say the right thing, do the right thing, then they wouldn't feel so hurt, and they wouldn't feel the need to hurt us. We make excuses for them, because even if everybody else says, "He's an abusive a$$hole - why don't you LEAVE?" we are the only ones who "get" that small, hurting part inside them. Which is part of why they are so desperate to keep and control us.
Yet that doesn't work. Repeat after me, "I cannot control others. I can only control my own actions." (And those only imperfectly, but that's another post.)
First, we must make certain we are not perpetuating the chain of emotional violence. Regardless of who is mistreating us, we don't have the right to call people names, or seek to make them feel bad about themselves. Get help, if necessary, but STOP being a bully.
Second - don't passively enable bullying as a bystander.
Third - don't put up with physical or emotional abuse. Whether that's walking into another room, going away for the night, or leaving for good, make it clear that we won't put up with it.
This can be difficult if you are a minor. And emotional abuse is not, "Johnny, if you don't clean your room, you'll be grounded," when the floor is ankle deep in dirty clothing and empty soft drink bottles. Yet, even if the floor is that bad, "Johnny, you're a disgusting pig and I wish I'd never had you," is unjustified. If you're a minor, talk to a counselor at school and work out strategies for how to cope with a parent who may be emotionally abusive.
If you're an adult, and not disabled, take back the power. Yes, you may have bills and kids and 1001 excuses, but you don't have to stay and put up with such behavior. You may choose to stay, at this time, or for many more weeks/months/years. but if so, know it is your choice.
Only you know if/when it is right to leave. But know this: verbal and emotional abuse is never okay. Not from a kid who might also be a victim of bullying; not from a boss, not from a parent, not from a partner. There is no excuse for physical or emotional abuse.
Have you been bullied? Or bullied others, in the past?
Please share, below.