An Uncomfortable Truth

An eighteenth century philosopher has been quoted as saying “the state of unequivocal harmony and bliss is the purest form of hell”. Wow, that’s a mouthful, but what did he mean?  Essentially his point is there must be some pushback; some element of disagreement, some questioning or opposing opinion otherwise society will stagnate.  As a car cannot move without friction between the tires and the road’s surface, neither can society advance without its own form of friction.

But, and it is a monumental BUT, when opposition and opinion go too far, too aggressively, we enter the realm of bullying.  Today, in my opinion, notwithstanding that we are too quick to label practically any negative action as bullying, bullying does have many forms, some subtle, some overt.  It can be hard to identify.  It’s not just the big kid stealing your lunch money. Bullying can be physical, emotional and psychological.  Not in my backyard you say, well brace yourself, I wager bullying does exist in within your social circle whether you recognize it or not.  Who’da thunk it, you, me, our neighbour actually resorting to such tactics, actually being a bully.  Outlandish, perish the thought!

Why and how could this be?  How could we?  Let’s take a quick look at the other side, those being bullied.  As good church people we make it easy for those with the bully bent, we’re taught to turn the other cheek, to forgive and forget, to not rock the pew.  Knowing that the targets are not inclined to stand up to them makes the bully feel they can get away with whatever.

There are as many theories as to why people bully as there are bullies. To get into that discussion would take much more space than this little article warrants; however, here are some of what I consider to be bully motivators.  We can always delve deeper at a later date.

  • Many are worried that challenging the bully will be considered unkind, perhaps even irrational, so the bully is confident of not being confronted;
  • Society generally accepts two responses to fear or anxiety: fight or flight. Bullies capitalize on the third response, freeze.  They know that freeze is actually the most common response, so if they rattle us, we will most likely do nothing, and the bully gets their way;
  • Despite appearances, bullies really don’t care about anyone but themselves. Bullies claim to be speaking for the proverbial “they”: the wronged, the victimized, the minority, but are speaking only for themselves and need prove nothing;
  • If they get caught, bullies play the victim card and guess what, blame their accuser of being a bully;
  • The stakes are very low. Generally the worst that can happen is people get annoyed at them, and if that happens they pretend to be the victim.

Bullying is an issue: in the home, on the playground, in society, in business, in politics and in all walks of life.  Bullying thrives because bullies use our anxieties, fears and emotions against us.  Most of us would prefer to avoid conflict than confront it.  It is easier to give in and tolerate, in itself an imaginary form of making it stop, than to challenge it. Ending bullying will not be easy. It means standing up against bullying, not participating or even unwittingly supporting bullies. It means recognizing our own anxieties and fears, risking being unpopular and not being liked.  It means changing the status quo and taking a stand against wrong.


Other views are welcome…

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