In 2017, a 12-year-old little girl named Mallory Grossman took her own life after nine months of incessant bullying at school and on social media. She repeatedly received messages such as “When are you going to kill yourself?” and “You have no friends.”
Though Mallory’s parents contacted the school “numerous” times, administration never took action to help the child. Her parents recently won 9.1 million in a wrongful death lawsuit—money they say they will use to bring awareness about bullying to schools through their nonprofit called Mallory’s Army.
Awareness is vital, but it is useless without action on the part of administration and parents. This requires effort to not only pay attention to children who are bullied but to children who bully. Once a situation is identified, it must be corrected rather than dismissed under the guise of “kids will be kids.”
Like all other evils, bullying is a product of sin and a broken society. But the apathy that allows it to continue is also a product of those same things.
Bullying is not a new concept, yet with the rise of social media, the ubiquitousness of cell phones, and the anonymity that comes from online communication, it has taken new forms. Whereas years ago, children could find a reprieve at home from the bullying they faced at school, they now find themselves attacked across numerous platforms and venues, as Mallory discovered.
I address the issue of bullying because being pro-life involves more than saving preborn babies or fighting against assisted suicide. It means taking care of people throughout the entirety of their lives because they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.
This tragic situation of bullying is one we must all talk about and work to stop—and it begins at home with parents. Parents are children’s first teachers. Children watch and absorb how their parents treat not only them but how they treat others. Of course, they then emulate this behavior. And we all know that children who have been hurt tend to hurt others.
To truly end bullying, we must teach our children to have moral courage and to stand up for those who are persecuted. We must teach empathy, love, compassion, and virtue. We must build up our children so that they can build others up rather than joining in as another child tears them down.
The aforementioned article about Mallory did not mention what happened to her tormentors. We can only hope that the children who pushed Mallory to suicide feel remorse and that they are receiving help.
But the bigger picture is that our society has increasingly become one where people can say anything they want to anyone they want with little fear of repercussions. We see this not only with children but with adults. Bullying is not just an issue faced by children in school. It can be found everywhere—in government, in Hollywood, and by organizations such as Planned Parenthood.
How can we expect our children to behave well when all the adults around them are screaming and yelling and acting like bullies? It’s impossible.
Making our society a better place to live starts at home. That means that we refuse to glorify the bullying actions of others, no matter who they are. We refrain from laughing at someone’s ideas or thoughts. We exhibit respect for all people. We demonstrate how to effectively talk to others and to get a point across without shouting or name calling. We talk to our children about morality and about standing up for what is right, and we teach them to stand firm in their beliefs without denigrating another for his beliefs.
Bullying comes in many forms. Today, I challenge you to look around you—at social media, at work, in your marriage, in your kids’ schools—and to identify the places where bullies have gotten a stranglehold on those around them. I then challenge you to do something about it. Speak up; take action. Having moral courage requires us to stand up to bullies. It’s a known fact that courageous acts can cause a bully to back down, as they only want to target those they can intimidate.
When we exhibit moral courage and teach our kids and others to do the same, we are creating fewer targets for bullies, and we are helping create an environment where bullying is not tolerated. This is how we will reduce this devastating maltreatment of others. This is how we save lives.
This article first appeared in Catholic World Report at catholicworldreport.com/2023/08/11/the-reality-of-bullying-a-pro-life-perspective.