Relational Aggression


Fr. Kevin Dillon

Fr. Kevin Dillon is the Pastor of St. Boniface Martyr Parish, Sea Cliff, Long Island, NY.

Those of us who came of age in the 1970’s and 1980’s would probably agree life was simpler and easier.  While this period in history was by no means completely perfect, it was a less hectic and complex way of living.  We drank water from the tap and used a rotary phone; there was no Facebook, mobile phones or television remotes.  Prime time television shows featured programs like Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, The Walton’s and The Partridge Family.  Most of us from that era grew up happy and adjusted well into adulthood.

Life in the last 25 or 30 years has become increasingly challenging and uncertain.  Teenagers of today face a myriad of social problems.  Among some of these problems are drug addiction (particularly heroin), alcohol abuse, and bullying!  True, there was bullying years ago; usually in what used to be referred to as school yard bullying and taunting from males and females alike.  Now bullying has been taken to a whole new level.  Many young people are bullied through cyberspace on the various modes of social media.  In essence, the bully follows the tormented individual home every night and enters into his/her house through the guise of computers and other electronic devices.  This is scary for anyone, but even harder for teens and young people.  This phenomenon can become so crippling and debilitating that the person being bullied becomes afraid to go to school!  NO PERSON, CHILD OR ADULT should ever have to live in fear.  Yes, sadly even some adults are bullied in the work place and other venues.

Before, he took his own life, Daniel Fitzpatrick of Staten Island, taunted and bullied unmercifully, wrote a gut wrenching and heart breaking letter lamenting the fact that no one from Holy Angels Catholic Academy in Bay Ridge Brooklyn did anything to intervene on behalf of this seventh grader’s passionate plea for help.  Just last week the media reported this story on television.  According to news reports the bullying had gone unchecked for almost a year.  Bullying in any situation is terrible, but in a Catholic school where Gospel values are taught and hopefully lived is especially disheartening.  News accounts even report male teachers in that school publicly mocking Daniel.

Statistics shows 48% of young people, particularly pre-teens, have experienced some sort of bullying.  This is an alarming statistic. Signs of bullying include withdrawal, wanting to get a weapon, missing items like lunches, back packs or electronic devices.  Sometimes a child will be reluctant to go to school, and perhaps feign illness.

We are a Church that advocates for life in all its forms.  Many Catholics seem to be under the impression that this philosophy only applies to unborn babies.  Yes, that is of great importance, but children who are bullied in school are also robbed of life!  Their inner peace and emotional welling being are stolen from them.  They are deprived of peace of mind and getting a full and life giving education.

While bullying cannot be stopped, I think it can be reduced.  Maybe we can teach young people to not manipulate others; perhaps just a simple conversation with our children will get them thinking about how they treat/mistreat others.  Peer pressure is great, but sometimes talking with young people helps.  It will certainly get them thinking and just perhaps help form their consciences in the ways of the Gospel and Jesus Christ.

Fr. Kevin’s letter appears each week in print and online in the St. Boniface Martyr Parish Bulletin.

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