- Politics and Social Issues
How to Stop Bullying and Cyber-Bullying
We Can Help Bullies and Protect their Targets
There has been a lot of talk lately about bullying and cyber-bullying.
No one likes a bully. Even bullies don’t like bigger bullies.
According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, a bully is “a person who uses strength or power to coerce others by fear.” To bully is to “persecute or oppress by force or threats.”
The word bully comes from the Dutch word for lover (boele), a term of endearment. This suggests that there is a loop between the bully and the bullied. The commonality is that both lack confidence. We could call this loop “the bully and the wimp.” The bully gets mad or displays an I can hurt you stance and the wimp cries or displays an I can be hurt stance.
Threats and cringing, however, are not the basic behavior. Behind these are actual force and real physical pain. Think of women through centuries who have accepted beatings and rape from a husband or male owner because they had no legal rights, no way to provide for themselves outside a male dominated household. There are women today who stay in abusive relationships because they have no skills—or think they have none. These women cannot protect their children from the abuse. All bullies are first helpless children. Then physical bullying occurs among children. Even in the same age group, children come in different sizes, and children in a range of ages and sizes play together or walk home from school along common routes. Big boys beat up little boys, unless the grownups and the kinder big boys provide protection.
Beyond physical force there are a whole range of bullying tactics which rely for their power on the threat of force, whether an immediate threat, a threat buried in our deep memories of spankings and beatings delivered by our caretakers, or an even deeper cultural memory of the painful wrongs committed by bullies.
Bullying is more than a gender issue, since the more powerful and meaner men have routinely beat up the smaller and milder men. Ultimately, in any group that runs on force and the threat of force, there is only one king bully, with all other men playing flunkies or biding their time until they can set matters straight, just as women have bided their time.
There is an old expression lovers used, “Come bide with me.” It’s a sweet way of inviting the other into an abiding relationship. Biden is the Germanic root for these words and suggests, again, the boele or lover of the Dutch. These words may have a common Indo-European root.
Stephen Gaskin, a spiritual teacher, likes to say, “If you’ll run one end of the loop, you’ll run the other.” A bully will cower even when “threatened” only with truth. I once witnessed such a reversal. There was a woman who liked to accuse and harass me where we worked together in a co-op. Finally I said, “You are hurting me. Are you doing it on purpose?” She fled in tears.
is possible to understand bullying, even when it goes on in cyber space. It is possible to rescue bullies as well as
their targets. Bullies who don’t want to
stop, need to be quarantined until they have a change of perspective. At very least, their participation on the internet and in text messaging should be monitored or limited. And we grownups must do that work. We may protest that it's too hard, that there's not enough of us, but if we do, we are only saying that the kids are out of our control. Let's get together, meet on the issue, and act to take back enough control in families and in schools to prevent our children from harming one another.
Let’s raise confident children and redeem the confidence of every child who has lost it, for his happiness and knowledge of his own real abilities depend on confidence in his basic self, like in the old poster of a kid saying, “I know I’m good stuff ‘cause God don’t make no junk.”
Don’t let a bully convince you that you are seeing the real person. Invite the apparent bully persistently, over as much time as needed, to show you a genuine self. With trust, she or he will shine for you. And won’t need to bully anyone.