Practical Spirituality

Practical Spirituality

Too Much Talk of Bullies?

There is a lot of discussion today about bullies
and the sometimes deadly cost of bullying in the news. Some wonder if the there
is an increase in bullying, or if we are just becoming more aware of the
problem. Naturally any time it becomes more culturally acceptable to come
forward as a victim of any type of abuse, there will always appear to be an
increase in incidence. But is bullying actually different or more frequent
today than in the past?

In talking with people of an older generation –
born and raised pre-television or in the early days of TV – it seems that
bullying in the past was certainly common, but straight-forward and fleeting.
Youth spent more time together in play and unregulated sport.  There is no
question that pecking orders were established and the strong would “push
around” the weak from time to time, and then there was the occasional
menace that people simply learned to respect and avoid. Though we can never
justify or excuse bullying, it seems there was a simpler time when bullying was
a less socially complex. Of course, this was also in a time and context when
brute force was more acceptable in parenting, relationships and conflict – and
we cannot forget the pure racism, bias and bigotry of the past that likely
excused a lot of violence from even being considered bullying. But when we
speak of the cruelty of children and what happens within communities, we must
wonder if things have gotten better or worse?


Today’s bullying takes on so many more shades and
tones. We now have the physical bullying by the local oversized menace, plus
the small gangs of bullies (which can be made of girls or boys of any race or
economic background), and we have two additional factors that I think make
matters much worse. We now have virtual bullies – for example, teens that
harass, victimize and torment others by text, email, Facebook, Twitter and
other social media means. In this there is no accountability, there is a much
higher psychological intensity and potential for humiliation, and there is a
diminished sense of remorse in bullying from a distance, rather than
face-to-face. At the same time the scale of humiliation can be enormous. Which
brings us to the next and final area of concern, and it’s something we can all
do something about.


The new complexity of bullying lies in the
dehumanization of strangers and people who are different than us in our culture
today. Social networking sites, biased websites, video games, and movies that
celebrate massive amounts of violence all diminish the perceived value of a
human life, and the capacity for empathy and remorse. This is no small issue.
Throughout history, it has always been the dehumanization of an enemy that has
led to or allowed horrific acts of genocide, torture and persecution to exist.

Humanizing our society and teaching empathy and
reflection about our impact on others is something we can do in our school
systems, our homes, and in our social circles. Violence starts in the mind, as
an attitude towards problem solving, judgment, and how we deal with difference.
It starts in subtle ways and that is where you can make a difference.
Take a stand, teach a friend, empower a child or try a new perspective
yourself. Bullying is the tip of a dangerous iceberg of cultural immaturity. I
am certain we are better than that.

Will you take a stand?

Comments read comments(9)
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posted November 1, 2010 at 10:25 pm

The new complexity of bullying lies in the dehumanization of strangers and people who are different than us in our culture today. Social networking sites, biased websites, video games, and movies that celebrate massive amounts of violence all diminish the perceived value of a human life, and the capacity for empathy and remorse.
don’t kid yourself by blaming this on technology. religion plays a central role in the dehumanization of other groups. The invention of Satan as a theological concept has facilitated mass murder to a greater degree than any contribution science has ever made.

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posted November 4, 2010 at 10:12 am

I have seen parents who bully everyone in their lives…including their children…then, we are surprised when those same children bully others?
We must end this vicious cycle…it serves no one…

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posted November 8, 2010 at 11:42 am

I think that bullying hasn’t increased really. I think it’s just become more easily defined. For example, I recently realized I was bullied in High School. At the time of the bullying, I just felt like kids didn’t like me and I was teased. But a group of boys would come up behind me and kick my book bag over my head so that I would fall and my books fell all over the ground. Clearly that was bullying but I didn’t see it that way at the time so they were never punished. Now, I hope that all of these discussions will help these kids realize what’s happening to them and they can get help from adults.
I also think if bullying is worse, it’s b/c parents don’t descipline the way they should anymore.

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posted November 10, 2010 at 10:40 am

I to was bullied at school maybe to a lesser degree than some, maybe to a greater degree? I would walk into the classroom and the boys would bark at me and call me dog face. In person they would throw garbage on me, and taunt me. I really didn’t know who to turn to, parents were dealing with their own demons so I turned it all inward. At the age of 13 I tried to end my life, and after that I tried the slow way to end it by alcohol & drugs. I feel sorry for kids now a days because there are more outlets for bullying via facebook and other sites. I know that if we had more places where kids could turn and talk to someone about this they might not end up feeling like the only alternative is to end their life? I sometimes wonder what my life could have been if I just had someone to turn to? I am now 49 and I have been clean & sober 6 1/2 years but it took so, so, long to end the cycle. They bullied me then I bullied me.

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Your Name

posted November 10, 2010 at 11:10 am


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Hilary Chaney

posted November 11, 2010 at 2:01 pm

I’ve just started blogging about my own manic break and hospitalization. It’s about recovery and treatment, but more importantly about discovery of a new post-religion faith where there is no hell, no original sin, you are God, and heaven on earth is real, radiant and right around the corner. A wild and triumphant ride.

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posted November 17, 2010 at 10:44 am

Where are the bullies that we knew so well those many years ago. I wonder how they felt while they were calling us names and throwing things at us. I wonder how they would feel today if they had the courage to join the conversation. I have never seen a comment posted from a former bully – do they even realize what they did? Are they ashamed?

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posted November 18, 2010 at 11:58 am

i manage a youth empowerment program for children 10 to 18 yrs of age. Many of them tell us stories of being bullied and a couple of the kids are bullies and listen closely.
what is great, is that the youth want to know what to do and they are enthusiastic and often somber about disclosing their experience of being bullied.
youth tell us they have noone to talk with, that noone wd understand.
i encourage anyone who is around kids or work w/youth to befriend them and encourage them to share their experiences.
i find, as adults, we underestimate the value of just listening to youth and their stories. take from someone in the trenches, it matters. thx. rebeca

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Jim Reidelbach

posted August 30, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Beautifully put. The Internet adds the REAL “fuel to the fire” cf to past generations. . .

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