Human To the End

The truth is that the strong don’t always survive. Usually the weak survive and the cowardly and the mediocre. They gather their forces to destroy the strong because the strong are at the core of their fear. (Pete Hamill, Forever)

Shortly after the publication of my children’s book, The One and Only Ben, I was invited to be the featured speaker for an anti-bullying program at a local institution and to read the book. (I’ll share more about that institution in a moment.) One of the themes of the book is self-faith, recognizing the capacities, gifts, and blessings that are ours alone. Needless to say, lack of self-faith and the correspondingly increasing rates of depression and suicides in our schools is a growing concern.

Though I’ve chronicled my own experience with depression and my abiding sympathy for people who suffer similarly (people who’ve experienced depression will never let another suffer alone), I have to say this: I don’t have much sympathy when it comes to children being bullied.

Yes. It’s horribly, unimaginably sad when children are tormented unto suicide and self-destructive behaviors. But if we believed we owe our children the senses of strength and independence they need to live their own lives (rather than making them the obsessive centers of ours); if we gave our children the time and attention they crave (rather than the pharmaceuticals we think they need); and if we taught our children to flatten bullies’ noses (rather than becoming the cringing victims on which bullies prey), they might not have to rely on national organizations to fight their battles for them.

Lest you find me heartless, permit me to say this, as well: The local institution to which I was invited wasn’t a school. It was a retirement living community. The program in which I participated wasn’t for children. It was for seniors. And even after having had retirement-living communities for clients, for the bullying of seniors I had no capacities for understanding, patience, or tolerance. But then I did a little digging.

According to

Between 10 and 20 percent of older adults living in senior living communities are mistreated by their peers, and often the behavior goes unreported.

And according to the Guide to Retirement Living SourceBook:

Dementia can sometimes be the cause of violence since someone with dementia may wrongly perceive things as threatening so they resort to a more primitive response … Bullying can also be a result of the human phenomenon of the strong picking on the weak and not a function of aging at all.

There you have it. To recast the terms of the Sourcebook in their relative reality, in the elderly, we see the human phenomenon of the weak picking on the weaker. In children who will grow older and stronger, who can learn to defend themselves, and who can move out of and beyond the circumstances in which they’re bullied, there is hope. In the elderly, there is only aging, weakness, and helplessness — even in those who bully to hide their fear of aging, weakness, and helplessness.

And, so, even with the institutional rules and order of senior living communities, we remain human to the end.

Learn more about the link between bullying and substance abuse with this guide by Keith Prance.

Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brien
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.
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Laura Mikolaitis

This article is an insightful read, Mark. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. When I think or read about bullying, it usually involves children and teenagers. I rarely hear about it happening with the elderly, although I am aware that it does happen. It’s disheartening to think about it yet it is worthy of discussion and awareness.

Your point about remaining human to the end is spot on. Regardless of the situation or circumstance, or in this case, age, we are human to the end.

I wasn’t aware of your children’s book, so I am intrigued and will have to put it on my reading list. I’ve always thought it would be fun to write a children’s book. Now I know someone who has done it!

Laura Staley

What an important topic you focus on in this article, Mark. Sometimes children are bullied by adult family members, which then leads the these children being bullied by their peers or other significant adults in their lives. To unravel this challenge of bullying, it’s important to examine the impact of trauma, unregulated adults, addiction, mental and emotional undiagnosed illnesses. And sometimes the most important bully that sometimes gets overlooked is the one that exists in people’s minds-how they talk to themselves-the so called “inner critic” or in some cases “inner bully.” When we find pathways to healing the internal war in our minds, hearts, and souls, to find ways to make internal peace within ourselves(with the support of loving, compassionate other wise individuals), to break the ancestral cycles of abuse-physical, sexual, mental, and emotional, and to learn new ways of interacting with one another from a place of compassion, deep respect, understanding of basic human needs/of child developmental needs (neuroscience included), and awakened awareness (among probably many other possibilities), we’ll begin to create a world where bullying becomes uncommon, unlikely, and unconscionable. We have a long way to go.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thank you for the work you are doing in our world for both children and elderly adults in retirement living communities.

Darlene Corbett

Thank you for this Mark! I think bullying cuts across all populations of society but often shows itself in different ways. I often say to my clients that bullies are cowards because if they were truly courageous they would not have to prey on those who may be more vulnerable.💖

Joel Elveson

Mark, there is so much in your article that is not only truth-filled but in addition, it evokes many teary-eyed emotions. Children that get bullied in school may wind up with scars that last a lifetime. Public School was a time when I experienced bullying because I was caucasian living in a predominately black neighborhood. We had such fun-filled days (meant sarcastically) as “kill whitey day” or “kill whitey wearing blue or gray day. My mother (of blessed memory) was in a couple of Rehabilitation Facilities (aka Nursing Homes) where there was no bullying from her fellow “residents” but certainly “inappropriate behavior” by the staff. More often than not it is the staff that mistreats the patients. From an up-close and personal vantage pint (I spent time in one of those places when I lost the ability to walk or care for myself) where oftentimes the staff was venomous. Bullying in any form is hurtful physically and mentally no matter how old or young the victim is. If you are made aware of a bullying incident or witness it you MUST report it. Thank you, Mark, for sharing your invaluable article.

Kimberly Davis

Oh my goodness, Mark, yes! I worked at a senior living facility in college and the bullying that went on among them was unbelievable! It was worse than high school! Because of their age they had lost all their inhibitions and felt they had earned the right to “tell it like it is” and holy smokes…! Did they ever! I had never thought of it as bullying until I read your piece, just a disintegration of human behavior, but this made me think of it in a whole new light!

Maureen Y. Nowicki


I appreciate you more and more for each range of writing you offer us. I watch monthly questionable actions happen regarding bullying in a seniors residence that I and other family members have had to stand up to. Some of it is covert and other is down right overt stuff. Some of those people in those residences with dementia have no one, I MEAN NO ONE – even at Christmas or special occasions to come and really monitor what is going on between interactions between staff and patients. This pisses me off at the best of days, but I also just have compassion and do my best to be uplifting to patients that I see who look amiss.

This type of discussion you present here is summed up best at your final words ” we need to remain human to the end!”

Important stuff you crafted here.

Aldo Delli Paoli

Lately I have the feeling that the typical aggression of this prevaricatory act has changed its appearance. Doing evil no longer requires motivation. Evil, including bullying, has already moved considerably from the class of actions aimed at a purpose in the context of a pleasant pastime and entertainment. It is no coincidence that today, together with bullying, we also talk about cyberbullying. And above all, abuse is a hallmark of bullying at any age. Adult bullies are also worse and more aware of the consequences that their behavior can have on others and therefore more dangerous than their “colleagues”. Over the years, the victims lose the security given by the family and the walls of the house and find themselves alone to face incessant harassment.

Sherry McGuinn

Bold and beautiful, Mark. And I agree with every word. Thank you for writing.


Wow, Mark, I guess it makes sense, and I can imagine it, but damn! So very human and very sad to know people tolerate bullying even in those circumstances. As I considered my personal growth ideas for 2020, I decided to speak up when I see someone being mistreated. I have in the past, but there were times I was quiet and shouldn’t have been.

Sure, we can teach people to stand up to mistreatment, but we have to model standing up for others if we want them to do it, too.

Thanks for sharing, another thing to consider as my mother ages!

Jonathan Solomon

Mark, thank you for a very poignant and insightful post and which affects every one of us every single day, in one way or the other. You shared a powerful message.

Sadly, this unbecoming phenomenon can also be seen in many humanitarian situations and, oftentimes, can be more destructive in many of the” lesser developed” countries. Race, religion, cast and such like, do play a part in such behavior. In one particular senior citizens homes, run by a Christian group, and upon observing such unbecoming behavior, I got permission to glue a 8 inch x 8 inch unbreakable mirror to the entry door to each room, right next to the “peep window”( as they called it) with the following text:

Remember YOU are walking into a holy place.

Matthew 25:40-45

40 ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Be blessed as you serve others.

A remarkable change was noticed within the following three days. This reminds us of our own attitudes towards our fellow human beings, regardless of our, or their status in society. Recognizing our own vulnerability and with humility we can appreciate the ‘contribution’ others give to our own lives.

Serving others with truth, kindness and with humility, allows us to discover and develop our spiritual gifts, to experience miracles and the joy and peace that comes from obedience.. ‘do unto others what you would have them do unto you.’

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson



Powerful voices from around the globe that speak to our shared human experience. May they inspire you and give you great hope.



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