STOP THE CYCLE OF BULLYING!! A Victim’s Perspective

Prior to the 17th century the term ‘bully’ was a term of endearment. It was a term to mean ‘brother’ and ‘lover’. The term’s meaning deteriorated through the centuries into what we now call a ‘bully.’ A bully is defined as a person who initiates and carries on the ‘activity of repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt another person, physically or mentally.’ [Besag, 1989] Bullying is characterized by an individual behaving in a certain way to gain power over another person.

There are three ways of bullying: emotional, verbal, and physical. Furthermore, bullying has been classified by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences into Direct Bullying, and Indirect Bullying (or social aggression). Emotional bullying includes behaviors that embarrass, or humiliate another person. Verbal bullying includes name calling, and physical bullying includes pushing, shoving, and hitting. To bully another person directly is where a bully singles out an individual and commonly involves physical abuse. Indirect bullying can occur through gossip, and social isolation.

Where does the cycle of bullying begin? It is my opinion that bullying is everywhere and we are powerless to stop it. Bullying occurs in all walks of life, and is not curbed by culture, social status, race, religion, or gender. A component of the definition of a ‘bully’ is an imbalance in power, meaning that one person has more power, whether real or perceived, over another person. By definition, wherever there is human interaction, that imbalance of power will always be present. Consider parent-child, teacher-student, administrator-teacher, management-employee, law enforcement-civilian, military hierarchy, and even coach-athlete relationships. There is an imbalance of power throughout society. I have been a victim of more than one of these social relationships. I have been a victim of verbal, emotional, and physical bullying in my life. My parents used to take things away from me in the most unjust of manners. Both my mother and father lacked the ability to reason, and the ability to empathize. I would be sent to my room and suffered seclusion, precious play time/outside time would be taken away from me isolating me from others. I would be bullied, coerced into doing menial labor and tasks, such as washing dishes, cleaning the house, washing the car, or physically demanding tasks like yard work. My parents lacked the empathy and were unreasonable and made such a big deal out of me talking back to teachers (I am entitled right?), not doing my homework on time (it’s my time, what’s the problem?), ignoring my personal responsibilities (if it was so important, why couldn’t they take the trash out themselves?!) My experience being victimized by bullies went beyond the walls of my house. I felt so helpless. Everywhere I went, I was being physically tormented, embarrassed, humiliated, and was made fearful. My teachers, counselors, and principal would gang up on me (the term is mobbing) and make me fearful by threatening to send a letter home to my parents when my behavior did not meet their standards (whose to say their way is the best way? What do they know?). It was a great source of anxiety for a child. At times, they carried out their threat and it sparked the cycle of bullying at home. I would try to escape the torment of being bullied by losing myself in athletics. The bullying experience was at its highest level. Many times I would perform a task as directed and get totally ignored without a pat on the back, or a ‘good job’ being directed towards me. It left me confused and wondering if I had indeed done things correctly. To be sure, I would successfully perform my task again. Still no acknowledgement. More confusion. At times, I failed to get my task done and was subjected to verbal abuse, comments pointing out my shortcomings, and questioning my mental and physical abilities. At its worst I was physically abused by running more than other kids, or doing more push-ups or sit-ups than other kids. It was readily apparent to me that the coach had the same lack of empathy and understanding that my parents had. All of this done in front of my peers. I was ‘aired out’ for all to see and hear.

My experience as a victim continued into adulthood. Managers, supervisors, department chairs, administrators all took their turns pointing out when I was late to work, called in sick (the only college student to do so, apparently), failed to perform a job up to company standards (what happened to individuality?), missed a deadline in turning in academic calendars and lesson plans, or forgot to fill out proper paperwork. I was at wit’s end. I asked myself why everyone was picking on me. After all I’m only human and I do make mistakes. Why did everyone; by everyone I mean those influential in my life, parents, bosses, teachers, coaches; feel the need to always correct me and point out my failures and shortcomings? Why didn’t they know to shelter me from the angst? Why did they not communicate to me that I was the victim, and console me telling me I was perfect, and everyone was out to get me? I was tormented by it all. I needed a way to get back, get even with all those attacking me.

My initial plan was to ignore all these negative people in my life. That did not last long. I found that the only one who suffered was me. My parents continued to strong arm me until they got their way. Restrictions got longer, tasks piled up until I could no longer hold out. I was forced to give in and do things my parents wanted me to do, and to do things how they wanted. I mean, so what if there was still dried up food on the dishes after I ‘washed’ them? My parents were unreasonable. I ignored my supervisors and coaches. In turn they ignored me. They did not even take the time to ask me how I was, or inquire into my well being. My supervisor fired me. My coach replaced me with another player. Now I could see how heartless everyone was. I was getting a clearer picture of how life would be. When my supervisor told me to show up at a certain place and a certain time and I failed to do so, it brought out how self-centered, and mean spirited he was when he angrily took the job away from me. When my coach challenged me to complete tasks in the proper manner, and in a timely manner, and I fell short time and time again, it exposed him for what he really was. He was an impatient, selfish, and uncaring individual. He did not care that turn after turn, I was trying my best. I was TRYING my best. Isn’t that what’s important? That I tried my best? Why was the coach, and my supervisor for that matter, so caught up in getting a task done? It’s not like I was a soldier, or a heart surgeon, and if I didn’t get my job done people would die. What was the big deal?

Year after year, I tried to cope with being bullied. Just recently I made a startling discovery. In trying deal with the hell my parents, teachers, coaches, administrators, bosses had subjected me to, I realized I had become one them. I am a parent. I am a teacher. I am a coach. I was an administrator. I am a boss. I AM A BULLY.

It hit me all at once like the ending of the movie The Sixth Sense. I replayed the times of my adult life. I had subjected my own children to restrictions and house chores, I had subjected my athletes to demanding and challenging tasks, I had removed employees and subordinates that weren’t performing up to standards, I sent letters home to parents, humiliating my students and forcing them to do crazy things like beating the mailman home.

Somehow, my life is different now. It is better. Instead of a victim mentality that I burdened myself with, I let that go and did three things: Listen, Learn, and Toughened Up and proved my parents, teachers, coaches and everyone else wrong. I proved to them that I could do well in school. I hold a bachelor’s and Master’s degree (ha! take that mom, dad, and teachers!), I proved that I could be a highly productive athlete (thanks for yelling at me coach. I played baseball in college, how ya like me now?), I started my own successful business (hey bosses, you think you taught me a life lesson? Thank you…).

Listen, Learn, and Toughen Up. Do it. Save yourself from being a victim like I used to be.