Bullies

A speech at a recent awards ceremony raised the issue of abusing someone less powerful. Removing the person who said it, the person it was said about in a thinly veiled fashion, the incident it was based on, and politics — the definition itself is fairly accurate.

Bullying is verbally or physically abusing someone one “outranks in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back.” A bully might not outrank the bullied in all of those things, but a fundamental characteristic of a bully is that the person is drawn to the unequal fight. In the end, it’s about cowardice and weakness more than any kind of strength.

We experience bullies in our own lives. From the first days in the schoolyard, to friends and family, to social media, to what we do for a living, we’re always going to run into those people who need to make themselves feel big by making us feel small.

And it’s possible we’ve been bullies ourselves. Let’s face it, it’s tempting to take out our frustrations on someone who cannot fight back, to take out perceived slights and unfairness on people who are paid to do a job that requires them to sit there and take it — without the ability to defend themselves. Maybe it’s the one sales call too many. Maybe it’s the person who got our order wrong from Toys “R” Us on Christmas Eve and now our child won’t get the toy that will be forgotten by Dec. 26. Maybe we have even threatened the employment of someone to make them go along with our opinion or do what we want them to do, even if they don’t agree with it. It’s power. It’s more intoxicating than money to some — but often the two go hand in hand.

Especially as kids — and especially in packs of kids. It’s important to win. It’s important to fit in. How often do we see that one preteen or teenager, maybe in a clique, or even a sports team, who falls out with the rest, for whatever reason? Maybe they aren’t going along with the rest of the crowd’s actions or opinions because they disagree or have been ostracized through no fault of their own. You’re on the sidelines — you can side with the outsider or return safely to the popular pack. In those difficult teen years, what will that decision be for most teens? The outsider is left to fight the battle alone.

Bullying is a serious problem, especially for our children, and especially with social media. It has led to tragic suicides in too many kids. But as adults, we fall victim and perpetrate it as well. It’s important to model good behavior for our children by cautioning ourselves to not abuse those whom we outrank, and we know can’t fight back. Those categories are all very personal to all of us, but we know who they are — and who we are.

If you are tempted to engage in bullying behavior or you see it in your children, remind yourself that engaging in such activity says more about you than your victim. And even if you walk away feeling as if you won, you’re the much bigger loser in the end.

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