Bullies are everywhere.
Corporations. Governments. Religious institutions. Families. Adults. Children.
People who are supposed to exemplify leadership qualities. Unfortunate as it is, our earliest encounters with them can be as toddlers.
That’s when it started for me, and I’ve experienced it at almost every stage of my life, in one form or another. So, as it is with most challenges in life, the answer or growth lies not in how we avoid it, but rather how we respond to it.
“Bullying is aggressive behavior intended to intimidate or mistreat a perceived weaker person. Bullying is reflected in four forms, including physical bullying, verbal bullying, emotional bullying, and cyberbullying. Bullying is treating another person meanly without regard for their rights or their value.” ~ Deborah Reisdorph
According to an article in Ditch The Label, an anti-bullying website, the reason people get bullied is never, contrary to popular belief, because of the unique characteristics of the person experiencing the bullying.
But, it is common for people who bully to recognize a unique characteristic in someone and to use that as a means to gain power over that person. At the root of the cure is the answer to the question of why bullies need power.
In examining this question, Ditch The Label conducted a study of 8,850 people, and 14 percent of them admitted to having committed an act of bullying.
When asked a series of questions about their lives, the group who had bullied someone had one or more of the following characteristics:
>> They had suffered a stressful or traumatic experience within the previous five years, such as their parents divorcing or the death of a relative.
>> Most of the group who had bullied someone were male. Males are taught, in our culture, to be aggressive and not process emotions in a healthy way. Some compensated for low self-esteem by projecting it onto others through bullying. Some had difficult home lives where they were in unhealthy relationships with their parents, felt rejection, or experienced violent behavior.
>> They may have lacked education about hate speech and why it is not appropriate. They lacked secure relationships and, as a consequence, were more susceptible to peer pressure.
So, how can we deal with bullies? We can avoid them. However, that seems impractical considering the prevalence of bullying and the many forms it takes in our culture. It is also not an approach that will help solve the problem.
In each of the characteristics of bullies identified above, a need can be seen. Healing from trauma, building of self-esteem, acceptance instead of rejection, education, and a sense of security.
“The way of the miracle-worker is to see all human behavior as one
of two things: either love, or a call for love.” ~ Marianne Williamson
How can we be instruments who meet the call to love the seemingly unlovable?
Most of us will not have the specific training or expertise to guide us through the process of behavioral modification. What we all have access to, however, is a well of love and compassion from which to draw and give to others.
Martin Luther King Jr., a man who certainly experienced bullying in a very real way, offered this insight:
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate; we get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity. By its very nature, love creates and builds up. Love transforms with redemptive power. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
I’ve not known very many people who ultimately rejected love. Some may take longer to receive it, but most ultimately will and those who do will be changed for the better. Love is transformative.
As idealistic as it may seem, I’m choosing to believe we can love away bullying. It will be difficult, and it will require a lot of patience and compassion.
Maybe a mantra from pop-rock culture will help keep us motivated:
“The power of love is a curious thing
Make a one man weep, make another man sing
Change a hawk to a little white dove
More than a feeling, that’s the power of love” ~ Huey Lewis & the News