Although it happened 40 years ago, I remember as if it happened last month.
Walking down the school bus isle, I stopped for a second to turn around and punch the guy behind me. He doubled over and gasped for breath. It all happened so fast, I not only stunned myself, but also shocked my seventh and eighth grade classmates sitting in the bus seats. No one said anything.
Was I a bully? Hardly. That guy knew he shouldn’t have touched me inappropriately and so did our classmates. Watching him gasp for breath was enough to make me vow I’d never punch anyone again, even though he was the bully. He touched, and punched, everyone inappropriately. I probably learned how to punch watching him, because I sure didn’t learn it at home. My dad never even cussed.
October is recognized in many schools as bullying prevention awareness month. Youth are encouraged to stand up against bullying through anti-bullying projects and programs—programs we never had when I was a kid, at least not in the rural school I attended.
Researchers have piled high documentation that proves harm is related to bullying. Suicides, jail time, and low job status have been traced back to bullying. Yep, all that harm happened back in my day too. Kids were physically hurt, tears flowed, and individuals struggled with life. These effects are sad black marks on humanity.
The ramped up efforts to stop bullying is a step forward to a better humanity, but the step comes loaded. Too much talk or emphasis on bullying and the harmful consequences of bullying may lose sight of the facts. Stopping a bully of today will not prevent the bully of tomorrow; adults can be the worst bullies; and you can’t have a bully without a victim, and you can’t have a victim without a bully. In other words, bullying, like the victim or the harm done, is an effect, not a cause.
To battle bullying as if it is a cause will not eliminate the problems. Benefits only come when the situation is seen in the light of effect. Unquestionably, it’s a trick to identify what looks like a cause and work with it as though it is an effect, but that is how we progress.
Let’s take a crop destroyed by weather—a drought. We presume the drought caused the crop destruction. In an effort to stop the destructive cause, weather is altered or manipulated, and we irrigate. However destruction continues because drought is an effect. So are frost, hail, pests, disease, or lousy farming techniques.
Psychology Today reports, “Bullies couldn’t exist without victims, and they don’t pick on just anyone, those singled out lack assertiveness and radiate fear long before they ever encounter a bully… No one likes a bully, but no one likes a victim either.”
Basically bullies can be defined as victims too, confirming they are effects, not causes. Both bullies and victims are tied to a long standing human history of fear, badgering, teasing, racism, chauvinism, stupidity, showing off, wanting attention, and sexual harassment. It’s enough to make one want to sit down and quit life. But we don’t. Human beings are resilient. We constantly become aware of who and what we are.
We are evolving. We have the right of equality. We can forgive. When false accusations are shot at us, we can bend over and let them fly over our heads and fall behind us dead. Or, we can take a stand for what is right, rather than who is right. We can learn better manners. We can be kind. We can think before we talk.