It’s easy to wonder why someone would choose to bully another, but harder to understand why others encourage it. This statement prompted by the fact that, despite our best intentions, there is absolutely no way to completely eliminate bullying, be in school, the workplace, or in life itself. At some point, every single person is going to be intimidated by someone else, or bullied, or feel threatened. The question is how we respond to the threat and rise to the moment.
Do we attempt to eliminate it, or do we use it as a means of growth and a source of personal strength? That’s the conundrum we face because being bullied, by any stretch of the imagination, is not acceptable. It is a direct violation of one’s dignity, one’s person and one’s mind. More than being physically assaulted, a person who is bullied suffers from mental and emotional trauma. Complicating matters is the fact that, more often than not, the bully is enabled by those involved, either because they have something to gain from the bully directly or because they themselves are afraid to speak up. Sadly, the media and entertainment-foisted notion of bullies being “shamed into submission” is too often not the case at all, but merely a pipedream.
How do I know? I myself was on the receiving end of being bullied.
Yes, I was once threatened, pushed around, and challenged by people in school and as an adult. These folks, more often than not, were trying to either look like the prototypical “bad ass” to their peers, and chose to single me out for either a misunderstanding, or because I was perceived as weak and vulnerable. Of course, there are those who believe on a fundamental level that bullying was actual beneficial to me. This, of course, is a foolish notion usually based on a perverse form of social Darwinism; the only way for someone who is bullied to grow strong is to, in fact, be bullied and stand up to that threat. There are also those who believe that bullies have a moral reason for their action – that the recipient of their hyper-aggression wronged them or society in some way and must be punished. This is the height of both hubris and narcissism.
So what can one do about being bullied? Should one confront the person, or walk away, or ignore? It needs to be addressed on a case by case basis, but the person doing the intimidation must be held accountable somehow, even if the person being bullied simply writes about. What’s frightening is how some many social media “trolls,” users who basically make outlandish, insensitive statements for mere shock value, have themselves taken to online bullying of youths and adults through shaming comments. Be it picking on a celebrity’s pregnancy, downing the good work of a Samaritan, or making insulting, shameful comments about race or sexual orientation, these bullies are at the absolute bottom of the barrel. Many were aggressive towards those they perceived as targets of opportunity in their waking lives, and have felt empowered to translate this sort of mean-spirited, aggressive behavior into the cyberverse. There is also the more insidious form of bullying – the sort in which the aggressor co-opts an issue, a perceived societal wrong, in order to portray the image of power and righteousness when, in reality, that person or group is merely wishing to look powerful so they can intimidate others.
There is no real cure for bullying – it is a disease which is an affliction upon the heart of humanity as a whole. It reminds us of the need for constant vigilance against those who chose to step backwards instead of moving forward. It can range from physical intimidation to legal brow beating, but the result is the same. When this sort of behavior is enabled, it threatens to metastasize into a form of group think; a body politick which can be co-opted into a movement against a particular racial, sexual, gender or economic subset as a means of distraction from greater issues; rather than focusing on the bully’s behavior, they manipulate us into focusing on what benefits them. Again, it is a fundamental form of narcissism, and it must be reoriented towards the greater issues at hand.
When the light of truth is focused on the root of the behavior, the person can be exposed for what they have been doing, and then proper action can be applied. To do anything less would be doing a disservice, but it must be first done among us adults so we can have the collective strength to face this issue without feeling like we are overstepping.