Taking the Bull Out of Bullying

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Bullying has been a hot topic for awhile now, with good reason. Turn on the tv and there’s another tragic story about a kid who committed suicide because of bullying. Open a newspaper, and read about how a group of kids decided to gang up on someone just because he or she was different. Hit the internet and you can find thousands of stories about bullying.

As a general rule, I don’t write on topics that have already been covered by thousands of others before me. Today, I’m making an exception.

How do we even begin to define bullying when it can come in so many forms? If you aren’t physically or verbally assaulted, but are instead “just” ridiculed, laughed at, or ignored, have you been bullied? What we tend to hear about are the stories of physical and verbal assaults. We hear less about the “passive” forms of bullying. I’ve never been physically bullied. I have been ridiculed, laughed at, and ignored, and believe me, that is a form of bullying that is just as hurtful.

It’s bad enough to suffer through bullying at school or work. With the ever-present internet, we can now be bullied 24/7. We’ve heard the stories about kids bullied on Facebook, through email, and on YouTube. It’s ugly. It’s unnecessary. It’s destructive.

As a kid, I was probably mean to kids who didn’t deserve it. Why? Looking back, I can say it’s because I saw in them a part of me I didn’t want to recognize. A perceived insecurity or weakness. But that behavior stopped when it started happening to me. I felt what they must have felt. I responded by closing myself off  to others and taking the power out of their hands. I made jokes about myself before they could. I pretended to not hear their snide comments. I pretended to not care about what they said. Eventually, I was left alone, in more ways than one.

I had a personality that enabled me to do those things and still be more or less ok. Not all kids have that. Not all kids have a loving family that reassures them that they are great and the other kids are just insecure. And I didn’t have to deal with being harassed on the internet, where thousands can join in on the bullying.

The question we seem to be asking is “How do we stop bullying?” That’s a great question, but I don’t think it’s the right question to ask. We can’t stop bullying until we get to the heart of the problem. Why do we bully?

That’s the real question. That’s the real problem. Until we can solve that, bullying will continue at all ages, in all arenas.

We bully others because we are insecure. We bully others because we are fearful. We bully others because we are scared and don’t feel like we are in control of certain aspects of our lives. We bully because we don’t like to have our beliefs questioned or challenged. We bully because we don’t want to be wrong. We bully because we see our own Shadow in those we are bullying.

I see bullying as a conflict between Yin and Yang. Until we accept and embrace that other complementary “opposite” part of ourselves, we will bully those we see those aspects in. Until we can learn to agree to disagree, we will point fingers and yell slurs at those who aren’t like us. Until we can accept that our views, our beliefs, our values are just one amongst thousands, we will be divided and bully those we perceive as “wrong.”

If you don’t agree with someone, make the choice to just not agree. If you can’t have a calm, reasonable discussion with someone about an issue, perhaps you should just drop it. If someone’s views are so different from yours that you can’t find common ground, accept it and find something you can talk about it.

Don’t call others names. Don’t disparage them for not holding the same beliefs. Don’t attack them without knowing their perspective. Don’t call in your friends to help you bully someone.

Kids learn behavior from adults. They look around and see us calling each other names, attacking the belief systems of others. They see us making judgements about people we don’t really know.

If we want to stop bullying, we have to first lead by example. We then have to teach kids why bullying happens. Teach them to respect themselves and others for who they are. Teach them to respect difference. Teach them to respect human life.

Until we do these things, bullying will continue. Until we do these things, Yin and Yang will always be in conflict.

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