No matter what I do and no matter where I go, one awful concept seems to follow me around everywhere: Bullying. I’ve been the victim, I’ve been the perpetrator. I’ve helped the victim, and I’ve let the victim get chewed to pieces.
Certainly as an adult I have a refined perspective on the concept of bullying. However, this awful behavior still creeps into the picture wherever I go. With each year I understand the world just a drip more, and here are five facts of bullying I’ve come across along the way.
1) Bullies Rise from the Weakness of Others
The way I always explained bullying to my students was very simple, and these truths should let any bully know the sadness of their path. Bullies are weak and/or unimpressive people. But it is a human need to feel strong and noticed.
What do you do when you’re talented or capable? You naturally show off your ability just by being yourself. However, the bully doesn’t have any of that. They can’t impress the world with who they are. So they seek a target on whose shoulders they could stand. And by weakening their victim, the bully emerges on top of them, inherently feeling more powerful and superior.
We should all be blessed with the ability to win the adulation of those around us, not because of who we can harm, but because of who we are. No one should need to rise above others in order to shine.
2) Male Bullying vs Female Bullying
In Baltimore, my son attended a school with only male students. Bullying was fairly common, albeit very typical male-style bullying. Boys are aggressive. They hit. They choke. The scars are mainly physical. And the best way to deal with it is to stand up for yourself.
The following year my son found himself in a grade filled with mainly girls, hellbent on demonstrating to him that their style of bullying was superior. They could bring someone to tears with a mild glance. A few well-timed words, and they could have you begging for mercy.
And these wounds don’t heal with Bandaids. And they are far more difficult to point out or prove to the authorities. In the immortal words of Louis CK, “Boys… do damage to your house that you can measure in dollars, like a hurricane. Girls… leave scars in your psyche.”
The takeaway: Bullying that is non-physical is a) still bullying and b) potentially far more damaging than any punch or kick.
3) Bullying Exists at Every Age
Bullying is something we come to think of as a kid thing or a school thing. But it exists at every stage of our lives, just manifesting itself in different ways.
But it’s still bullying.
It’s still abhorrent behavior that we should keep an eye out for. We should stand up for those being tormented. And we should fight for justice in every place we see the mistreatment of others.
I’ve been bullied in the workplace, as I’m sure most people have. Sometimes it comes from those in positions of authority. However, very often it can come from just about anyone.
The rule is the same: If you can’t feel good about yourself because you’re talented and amazing, the tendency arises to try and feel good by forcefully placing others beneath you.
4) We All Do It
Many times I’ve asked my students if they’ve ever been bullied. Usually every student in the class will raise their hand. I’ll then ask who has ever bullied someone else. It might take a little longer, and the reactions might be a bit slower, but generally every hand will go up for that question as well.
It’s scary to think that something we all loathe so much can also be something we’ve engaged in. We’ve all hurt others. We’ve all caused somebody, somewhere to question their worth. There’s a person or people in the world who have shed tears because of our words and actions.
And now we’re adults. And we’re doing it all over again.
It is imperative that all thinking adults, anyone with a strong sense of character and morals, evaluate their everyday actions and activities. We should be able to look deeply at our interpersonal experiences and recognize when we’re bringing someone else down in order to artificially feel better about ourselves.
As adults, we tend to be able to justify what we do easier. And we can cast away our misdeeds as being necessary or light-hearted banter. And in some cases, it may be true. Firing a lousy employee is not bullying. And joking around with close friends is fairly likely to be innocent and harmless as well.
But we know better than that. There are lines we shouldn’t cross, and people for whom it wouldn’t take much to realize we’re causing harm. And we absolutely should never cause harm. No one should suffer unnecessarily as a result of our words or deeds. And if they are, we need to know we’re the cause, and kill the behavior immediately.
5) Bullying Can Easily Draw You In
It’s a sad reality, but even the gentlest and most well-meaning person can easily be pulled into bullying. The group starts teasing someone for whatever, and before you know it, you’re participating as well. After all, if everyone is involved, how bad can it be?
None of us are immune to this. Whether it’s poking fun at the new kid in school or teasing a co-worker about their mismatched socks, when the group starts in, it’s so easy to just slip into the mix. You might do this with your own obnoxious comments, or you might do it by laughing along with everyone else.
And you’re fairly likely to participate by not noticing when someone is being hurt, or by not doing your part to make things better.
We should all be blessed to recognize when we are acting as bullies, to be sensitive to the feelings of those around us, to have the strength to not get pulled into bullying situations, and the wherewithal to always stand up for what’s just and right.
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