Bullying

This is Anti-Bullying Week, apparently, so we can expect lots of media interest in bullying and its tragic consequences. We are all against bullying in any shape or form, but I wonder whether any of us will stop to ask ourselves whether we have ever been, or worse still, actually are, bullies. We are quick to talk about being bullied, being victims of another’s rage or hatred; we are much slower to acknowledge the ways in which we try to force others to do our bidding. It may be a rather hidden form of bullying we go in for, scarcely noticeable to outsiders, but it is bullying nonetheless. If the other person won’t do what I want, I will force them. The weapons used may be physical violence, words, or more passive forms of aggression, such as silence or tears. It doesn’t really matter: the intention is violent, even if the action isn’t.

The roots of the word ‘bully’ are to be found in an old Dutch term for a lover or friend. Over the centuries, there has been a sea-change in meaning, but I think it’s worth thinking about the relationship between bullying and love. It is a poor excuse to talk about bullying as inverted love, as though that somehow made everything all right, but the connection between bully and bullied is a strangely powerful one. Just as kidnap victims tend to form bonds with their captors, so those who are bullied often feel that they are reinforcing the bully’s behaviour. They blame themselves for what has gone wrong. That is nonsense, but bullies assume that it lets them off the hook.

I think one of the ways in which we could all make a positive contribution to Anti-Bullying Week would be to examine our own conduct. Inevitably, we will find things we do not like. We must bring them into the light of God’s love for healing and transformation. The message of the Cross is that bullying stops there. Once for all, Christ has taken on his own shoulders the sin and shame of us all. We can change; we can eradicate bullying from our own lives and, at least partially, from the society in which we live; but first of all we must acknowledge the depth of our need. ‘Lord, have mercy on me, a bully’ is harder to say than ‘Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner’ but it may be exactly what we need to say.

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5 thoughts on “Bullying”

  1. I gave a brief talk at #CNMAC13 about (cyber)bullying (http://www.slideshare.net/drbexl/tortured-by-technology-cnmac13), and the bit that seemed to tweak the most interest for people was in defining the roles of the three main groups involved: the bullied, the bully and the bystander – with several people challenged to think about whether they have ever taken the role of bystander, and could maybe better take on the role of ‘digital ally’ – rolling in when the conversation takes a nasty turn…

  2. I’ve experienced bullying in the past and I’ve had to deal with case of alleged or proven bullying when I was an Equality and Diversity Officer.

    I’m proud that the country has legislated to protect those bullied at work, and I know that schools have robust procedures in place to deal with case of bullying, but the sad thing is that we need to be protected by law, rather than peoples respect for the dignity of others.

    Somehow when bullying is pernicious and ongoing some of our humanity is lost – both by the bullied and by those doing the bullying. I hold the view that we all might have it within us to bully another, but like many kinds of our behaviour it’s within our own control – we don’t have to do it, but we do it all of the same.

    I’m pretty sure that a solution to bullying lies in education from the earliest years of our lives and for example being set by parents, family, teachers that demonstrate the loving quality of relationships, not the nasty spiteful one that bullying can portray

    Prayers for those who are bullied and down trodden, because their vulnerability seems to me to be anyone of us who could suffer at the hands of a bully.

  3. A very dear friend of mine was bullied at work by his manager who wanted to detroy his career. He spent a year off work sick from stress and went through three stages of the grievance procedure. His employer-a local authority-did the usual thing corporates do, they stood by the bully, however, when the case clearly showed it would go against them if it went to court, they moved the manager to another role and my friends situation eased, and they made concessions for him. During the year he was off work, I asked friends, prayer groups, and religious orders to pray for him. The experience almost destroyed his confidence and took him to the point of suicide. He stayed with me during this whole period, and I know that grace alone, guided us all through this dark period. Bullying, is a disease of our collective humanity. I pray that we all ask to be healed from this disease if it arises in our consciousness.

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