What is Bullying? - Bullying Series, post #1

(This blog post is part of a special series addressing the topic of bullying)

Every other week, over the next few months, we are going to explore the phenomenon of bullying – what it is, what might “cause” it, and what we can do about it.

What is bullying?

Well, we know it happens – it IS real. It is problem. In fact, it happens every day – to students, to acquaintances and friends, to adults in the workplace, and maybe even to you.

A good definition of bullying is “the deliberate choice to hurt, threaten, or torment a vulnerable person.”

Let’s take a minute and break this neat little definition into its component parts so we can really understand what we’re talking about.

Deliberate:  The act of bullying isn’t accidental – it is a choice. Bullies know what they are doing or saying is hurtful, and yet they still choose to bully.

Hurt:  There are many ways someone can be hurt or can hurt others. This hurt can be physical such as punching or tripping someone, or any action that causes physical pain. The hurt can also be emotional because feelings are fragile and can be easily crushed, especially when someone is intentionally trying to manipulate and cause emotional harm.

Threaten:  The act of saying you will or might do something bad (oppress, menace, punish, hurt, damage) to someone is a threat. To threaten someone is to bully them, whether or not you actually follow through on the threat. The intimidation and fear caused by the threat is what makes this bullying.

Torment:  Torment is to deliberately inflict severe pain (physical, mental, or emotional). If what you or others are doing causes continual suffering, then that is torment.

Vulnerable person:  Bullying is usually the stronger acting upon the weaker. Instead of protecting the vulnerable, the bully chooses to harm them using physical, social, intellectual, or emotional power. Any person can be a “vulnerable person” if they hold less power than the bully.

So, how is bullying different from being impolite, rude, or disagreeing with someone?

Bullying is:

Bullying is not:

Bullying is often depicted in movies. Some of the best examples of this come from “superhero” or “comic book” movies. There is a bully type of character that must be confronted by the hero, sometimes at great personal cost. The hero confronts the bully to protect and defend the person or persons who are being bullied.

Sometimes all that it takes to stop a bully is to stand up to them – even if the bully is a “friend” or someone you know….but it takes a lot of courage. As J.K. Rowling states in one of her books, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.”

In the next post of this bullying series, we are going to dive a little deeper and identify the types of bullying we see in our everyday lives.

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