**The following piece appears in iPinion Syndicate’s special issue on bullying.**
[bul·ly – noun \ˈbu̇-lē, ˈbə-\: a blustering browbeating person; especially : one habitually cruel to others who are weaker. A hired ruffian.
Synonyms brutalize, bully, ill-treat, ill-use, kick around, maltreat, manhandle, mess over [slang], mishandle, mistreat, misuse
Related Words molest, outrage, violate; harass, harm, hurt, injure, oppress, persecute, torment, torture; burn, sandbag, victimize, wrong; beat (up), mess (up), rough (up), work (over), bluster, trash-talk; affright, alarm (also alarum), frighten, horrify, scare, shock, spook, startle, terrify; menace, terrorize, threaten; badger, harass, hound; bludgeon, coerce, compel, constrain, dragoon, force, make, oblige, press, pressure, push around; demoralize, psych (out), unman, unnerve; discompose, disconcert, disquiet, distress, disturb, perturb, upset]
Bullying is an abuse of power. Plain and simple.
There is no honor in being a bully. The bully is not some Hero born to help those in this world perceived by some as “soft around the edges” to “toughen up” and “take it like a man.”
The recent surge of stories in the press and desire of many to alleviate the abusive bullying of our youth does not in any way lead to the “Pussyfication” of America. Misogynists love the word “Pussyfication” (http://thethirdlittlepig.com/pussies.htm) and feel being bullied is somehow a right of passage that will keep America strong, virile and on top.
What the Hell?
Thank God there are people in this country who actually have a conscience and recognize the horror that exists in the rash of blatant, vile, vicious persecutions that have led children to kill themselves.
The bully is a person who makes a choice to target others with their abuse in order to make themselves feel bigger and better than they are.
I would bet a million rupees that most bullies are individuals who have been bullied themselves at some point and have chosen to strike out in anger in an attempt to regain some of that lost sense of power and self-esteem.
Each one of us has chosen to treat someone in a mean way at some point in our lives. That is part of being human.
The difference between a momentary lapse of lashing out in anger or spite and a bully is consistency and the absence of remorse. Sounds a lot like a Sociopath doesn’t it?
A bully strikes out at others with calculated intent. Their intent is usually of the serial kind meant to wear down, conquer and destroy their target over time. Their weapons can be physical of course, but more often they attack with lethal words.
Oh the power of language.
We all know words have the power to heal and to uplift. Words can help us to feel loved and cared for. The spoken word can help us to understand the internal workings of our friends, our colleagues, our loved ones. The right words can build us up and help us to feel whole, confident, strong.
But the dark side of language is its ability to give life to feelings of venom and hatred. All the ugly, nasty, negative words that create a visceral response in the gut when one reads them let alone hears them directed at self. Such is the vocabulary of a bully.
Most of us were taught as children the “sticks and stones” bit. An early lesson in arming ourselves against those in our society who choose to hurl nasty labels and verbal insults.
But for how many of us did that little verse really work?
Honestly, how easy was it to let those vile words roll off your shoulders when you stood red-faced on that playground surrounded by children while Johnny called you “fatty” or “blubber butt” or even worse?
Again, I would bet all my money no matter how hard we tried to make them roll, most of us who heard them were still deeply affected by those words.
In fact, we carried those words with us through life beyond childhood. We heard them echo in our heads any time we failed to meet the world’s or our own standards.
They became the self-defeating mantra we whispered every morning when we looked in the mirror and every single night as we lay in bed.
Yes I was bullied. As a young girl I became the Queen of bullied. I was an overweight, painfully shy, terrified, shuffling target. It was devastating and all I wanted to do was to curl up and die.
There was a severe abuse of power every single day of my life in my own home. This bullying was verbal, it was physical, it was sexual, it was emotional. My resultant lack of self-esteem opened the door for more bullying in school and in my own neighborhood and beyond.
By high school I began to find my own internal strength.
In no way do I attribute the development of that strength to the fact I was a bullied and abused child. This is not a “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger moment.”
Instead, I attribute that strength to all the wonderful mentors in my life who chose to use words of love, encouragement and support and who helped me to see the good within me.
The only thing the bullying and abuse did for me was to make me feel so bad about myself I struggled with the will to live on a daily basis.
My internal self-loathing eventually turned into anger and I began to lash out at others who I felt were weaker than myself. This was the ugly side of me, the one who on occasion said mean things or laughed at others because they were “different.”
Fortunately for me I had a good, forthright group of friends who weren’t afraid to tell me when I was being mean and helped me to realize my targets were undeserving.
At the end of every day when all was quiet and I was alone, I would still hear that negative self-talk inside my head. Being mean to someone else never changed that. Add to that the embarrassment I felt about belittling others and doing so in front of my friends who in no way approved. A hard lesson to learn but I realize today my friends saved me from becoming the very thing I loathed.
We are each imperfect humans. At any moment in time we can choose to hurt or we can choose to love. Our words have the power to heal as well as to destroy.
There are children killing themselves in this country because other children have become the abusers, the buffoons, the bullies. Those children learned that behavior somewhere and it was most likely taught by an adult.
It is our responsibility as adults to intervene and put an end to all this madness. It is not our place to stand idly by and cheer on some convoluted “right of passage.” If we do, we should be held accountable for the crime of neglect.
I would never want my own child to suffer abuse at the hands of another. Nor would I want my own child to carry the blood of another on his own because he chose the actions of a bully, while I sat idly by and made empty excuses for his behavior.