We all heard last year about Brian Birchall who at the age of 12 years old tried to commit suicide twice in one week. This followed an incident where a six-year-old girl had cords tied around her neck and was beaten with sticks in a series of violent incidents because of her differences. Which followed the tragedy of a 14-year-old girl, Amy Jayne Everett took her own life as a result of bullying. 

The epidemic of lookism is hurting our children and in some cases killing them!

When I heard about Brian Birchall, a boy who was bullied for no other reason than he has red hair, I cried. I cried for this young boy and for the hurt that he is experiencing and will live with for a large part of his life. But I also shed a tear for the young boy that still lives inside of me who knows the pain that comes with being beaten, abused and humiliated because of physical differences. 

The physical abuse of being bullied altered the way I thought about myself as an adult, the way I lived and the way I loved, not only myself but others.  No child or adult should ever have to experience abuse for things that they cannot change.

The sadness I feel today is rooted in wondering how we got to the point where we will hurt another human being simply because of their differences and that there is so little holding to account of those who believe they are entitled to inflict this behaviour on others?

But this behaviour is in no way exclusive to our youth. The cruelty that takes place in our playgrounds is merely symptomatic of what children see taking place in our world. 

When these shocking incidents take place we tend to look at them mostly through the lens of the emotional pain that is suffered by the individuals involved.  But there is a broader issue at hand that we need to address as individuals and as a society and that issue is 'lookism'. Without any doubt, lookism is as toxic as racism, sexism, ageism or any other form of discrimination.

People judging others harshly for the colour of person’s skin, the texture of their hair, their freckles, body shape, nose, ears, walk, disability...

Lookism takes so many forms, but inevitably results in separation, isolation, rejection, humiliation and abuse. 

No one should ever have to feel unsafe because they look different and no one should ever be abused because of their physical appearance. It should not be a privilege to go to school or work and feel safe, but a human right to be treated with kindness and respect regardless of who we are or what we look like. 

Perhaps we need to reflect on what we are teaching our children. Our youth need a heavy dose of self acceptance and in turn, acceptance of others, which gets back to what are we teaching them, or not teaching them?

Abusing others cannot be excused and should not be tolerated.

There’s no doubt that people who are bullied can defy the odds and grow up to be productive, thriving, loving adults.  But it takes work and commitment to move past the path that has been laid out for you in your childhood.

The video below is about my own bullying experience and how being beaten, spat on and abused on a daily basis deeply affected me as child.

I share it in the hope that it can help heal others.

It is my prayer for any child being bullied that they will come to know they are beautiful, valuable and good, and most importantly, that we are all meant to be different.

For when we can accept and respect this simple truth, we will no longer hurt ourselves and each other for the simple things that make us human. 


(Excerpt from Faith Lifting Prayers, by Gregory Landsman)