Monday, January 18, 2010

Greatest Hits: Bully

Originally posted on 9/8/2008:

I realize that in the world we live in there are a great number of social injustices. You have your homeless people living on the streets or in subway tunnels. You have starving children around the world and even in your own neighborhoods. You have underdeveloped nations tearing each other apart through civil wars.

I'm not going to address any of those global issues though. This one hits real close to home. Today I'm gonna take a look a bullies.

Everyone at some point in their life has been exposed to bullying. Whether you were on the giving or receiving end, it's a playground phenomenon that's inescapable. For the most part, it seems that adults turn a blind eye. Maybe we think that it builds character in our kids to deal with that sort of conflict.

Oftentimes, however, when parents get involved it becomes an impossible situation. The parents of the bullied children are placed in a difficult position. They may not witness the act of bullying, but they witness the results. Crying, broken-hearted kids who are victimized by the kid on the playground. But they don't want to talk about what happened. If a parent is fortunate enough to drag it out of their child, they still have no actual proof of what happened. They have their child's word against another's.

The parents of the bully are in an equally awkward position. Most of the time they don't have a clue how their child acts outside of their home. They have no idea that their son or daughter may be belittling their classmates or, more often, kids who are younger or smaller than they are. So when another parent approaches them to discuss the problem at hand, they are extremely offended. There's no way their little angel would ever mistreat others.

And so the cycle continues.

Eventually, the kid being bullied will take all he or she can stand and then fight back. Most of the time. But at that point, the rage inside is so strong that it's unleashed in a maelstrom of emotion (See A Christmas Story for a perfect example).

Or, they allow it to continue happening. They repress what's really going on and they spend the rest of their lives battling a damaged self-esteem and lack the confidence to push themselves.

I think Daniel Stern said it best in City Slickers when he said (and I'm paraphrasing) that a bully isn't just mean, they rob you of your dignity. What makes a bully act the way that they do? Why do they feel the need to make others feel horrible about themselves?

Most psychologists will say it's so they can make themselves feel better. They're lashing out and exposing weaker kids' insecurities in order to compensate for their own. What's wrong? Did daddy not hug you enough? Did mommy hug you too much?

And I'm not saying that bullying is limited to only childhood. We have bullies in the real world too. Managers who think that just because they're your superior on the job, they can step on you as long as it accomplishes their personal goals. Cops who bend the rules simply because they're in a small position of power. There are others as well. And don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that all police officers or bosses are bad people. I'm just saying that power can corrupt.

And these adult bullies could be anyone. They could have been bullies as kids that no one ever had the guts to stand up to. More often though, those kids grew up feeling guilty about the way they treated others as a kid. The adult bullies might have been the kids that got kicked around. Now that they're older and in positions of authority, they feel vindicated and think they're well within their rights to push others around.

As with most of my posts, I've done pretty much no research to back up anything I'm saying. This blog has and always will be based solely on my opinion and how I see things. If you disagree, as always, I invite you to comment below.

And I'm sure that there won't be any "bullies" reading this, but if you are a kid reading this blog, I encourage you not to pick on the ones who are little or different than you. If you're one of the bigger kids in your class or in your neighborhood, then you have a responsibility to stand up for those who are incapable of standing up for themselves. When you do the right thing, you'll feel much better about yourself as a person than you would if you were kicking someone while they were down.

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