I was asked recently to write on my blog about bullying.
I seldom receive any topic suggestions so I enthusiastically obliged and decided to mull over the concept of bullying, my experiences, and what I have to say about it.
Trying to conjure up my thoughts and opinions on bullying is kind of hard. To my memory, in the capacity of experiencing bullying in school, very little comes to mind. I can’t recall a time at school where I was the object of another’s ridicule. It very well could have happened, but I have no memory or feelings attached to an instance. I realize how truly fortunate I am because for the majority of kids these days, that’s not the case. I know people have without a doubt talked about me behind my back and I’m sure that continues on to this day. It almost seems like human nature, to be honest.
Despite my ability to recall specific personal events, I think it’s still important that I put my thoughts on this matter out into the world because, of course, I do have them. (I suppose that’s the downside of being opinionated, huh?)
According to StopBullying.gov, bullying is described as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves real or perceived power balance and the behavior is repeated.
This definition works well for school-aged children, but I’m not in that demographic anymore, and I would venture to say neither are my readers. This isn’t to say that they don’t matter but, since I’m not a child and I don’t have a child, my opinions are better suited for grown-ups.
So here’s the thing – I think we’ve all bullied at some point.
I know there are people out there who will think, “Who, me?! I would never!”
Sorry to break it to you, but you have. We all have. Anyone with a sibling – you know you have!
Just like everything, bullying experiences fall on a spectrum. So when you ask yourself, “Have I bullied?” it’s important to consider more than just the worst of the worst here. I’m not talking about “Have you ever been comparable to Biff from Back to the Future?” I’m talking about – have your words or actions ever left a significant negative impact on another person? That’s bullying. There’s an entire spectrum of bullying that covers everything from typical sibling taunting to the very worst cases that I’d rather not think about.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we’ve been a part of a bullying situation at least once in our lives. If we haven’t been the bully or the victim, we’ve all played the bystander role, even though I’m sure we would rather not. Being the bystander in these situations is challenging because it appears to be out of our control. However, if we are able to summon the courage to participate in a positive way, I think we should.
Participating in a positive way can even come after the incident itself. Let’s take for example that you see someone be a little verbally aggressive toward another person. Oftentimes it’s hard to speak up at the moment. But what about afterward? It wouldn’t take much at all to say something to the victim of the bullying situation like, “Hey, that was a little aggressive of them. I’m sorry they talked to you that way.” or “What they said wasn’t true, don’t believe their mean words.”
Sometimes by participating in a positive way like that, we are able to help reduce the sting of the blow that bullying can deliver. We can help the victims heal and overcome the situation.
Another positive way to intervene would be to address the bully directly. Again, this doesn’t have to be in the moment of the negative interaction, because sometimes that can feel really intense. Maybe after whatever happens happens, you can take them aside and say something like, “What you said earlier was a little aggressive. I think you hurt X’s feelings.” The bully in question may very well be unaware that what they said had a negative impact. I mean, I know I’ve been deep in emotions before and said some aggressive things to others when I’m sure it wasn’t necessary. I know I’m not the only person who’s done this same thing.
Negative outside situations and emotions can weigh hard on people and make them do things they wouldn’t otherwise do or say.
Compassion, in my opinion, is the one thing that will help both ends of the bullying situation. Bullies and victims need compassion when it’s all said and done. Sometimes, ironically, bullies can be people who themselves are being bullied and they know no other way to be.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution for bullying. What I do have is advice that I think can help the majority of negative situations that arise from bullying. Compassion is key to helping others through their struggles. Whether it be by speaking up during or after a situation, or by being a shoulder for someone to lean on during a challenging time, we can all do our part to help improve the state of the bullying spectrum.
We should focus our energies on building each other up instead of focusing on the differences that divide us and tearing each other down. We are more powerful as a people when we stand united and engaging in bullying behaviors only furthers to disrupt our natural state of being.
Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Reflect on the actions of your past and what you can do in the future to improve any negative output that may have resulted from your choices. The children of today learn by our example so we should do our best to be aware of the types of messages we are sending with our own actions first.
The cycles of human behavior only change the moment that we are able to use courage and love to make changes for ourselves. Try changing for the positive and see what else follows suit in your life.