Tuesday, November 12, 2013

When Does the Bullying End?

The NFL's news about Jonathan Martin leaving the Miami Dolphins after being bullied by veteran teammate Richie Incognito is yet one more incidence of bullying behavior. This story followed close behind the one of two Florida pre-teens arrested for allegedly taunting and bullying another 12-year-old girl until she committed suicide by jumping to her death. Another sad story reported on a Texas teenager who was arrested for allegedly bullying a special needs girl. The bullied girl received a barrage of threatening and vile messages, including one text that read "kill urself," according to North Texas police.

Some may argue the above cases are aberrations and not the norm. Others would say the word "bully" has become a smokescreen for people who can't take a joke, who don't understand the role of teasing, or who are out to make life miserable for others by "playing the victim."

I disagree with those who claim there is no bullying or who maintain it's just "kids-will-be-kids" fun that gets blown out of proportion by the media.

Bullying -- in whatever form it comes -- is a premeditated action intended to belittle, degrade or cause physical pain to another person.

Unfortunately, I have witnessed this sort of behavior among children and adults. I've seen kids at the mall go out of their way to make fun of the person cleaning tables at the food court or demean an employee on the janitorial staff. I've seen adults make fun of others, usually at a sporting event.

I've watched dads use harsh words, threatening their children with physical punishment to enforce obedience.

I've witnessed husbands raising their voices and slamming their wives' behavior, appearance or conduct in public -- seeking to mock and put them down.

Bullying is not an alternative method to get one's point across, nor is it a satisfactory means of expressing one's displeasure at a person. In every case, it's damaging, malicious, and the sign of an exceedingly weak ego.

Bullying stops when the perpetrator halts the behavior. Nothing short of that ends the problem. When the urge to bully is suffocated -- choking it off again and again when necessary -- then some real headway can be made. In time, the knee-jerk bully response can be defeated by the offender striving to show (oftentimes through great personal determination) a measure of self-control, kindness, compassion, and genuine concern for another human being -- no matter how different that person might be.

Perhaps the best way to stop bullying in its tracks is squaring off with it -- one bad situation at a time.

Doing it one man at a time seems the place to start.

I will do my part. Will you join me?

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