This entry is the first part of a series exploring the behaviors and attitudes of bullies. Add these observations to your own, so that together we can understand and perhaps thwart people who use force to influence the rest of us. Today some basic concepts…..
Most of us don’t like to be bullied. So we dislike *bullies. That’s simple enough to understand, but perhaps there’s more to this too-prevalent pattern of behavior and relationships.
My interest in bullies and bullying behavior—including those of us who may have been bullied—comes from a memorable incident in my early elementary years. During one first-grade recess, I scolded a classmate for throwing rocks at the girls in our class. I went over to protect the girls, and was hit by one of the bully’s stones. On my forehead. A gash that bled significantly over my face. Sounds and smells hard to describe. My forehead still displays the scar of that wound. Perhaps my emotions, too….?
Those memories are still tangible as the remembered sights, sounds and smells that accompanied this event. I don’t recall other bullying incidents as a child, but over the years have certainly encountered individuals—usually other guys—who thought they could lord it over the rest of us by their bluster or threats.
Nowadays, bullying has taken on a new life, showing up in politics, organized religion, business dealings, international relations, educational leadership and mass media outlets masquerading as journalism. Bullying behaviors and attitudes seem to be increasing.
Does bullying grow inside of people who may have missed something along the way? Like love, understanding or appreciation? Belonging or success? The ability to persuade others? A vocabulary of empathy? Whatever is going on with these folks, it may be rooted in a deficit that doesn’t feel good. And bullying may fill that empty place.
One possible path to bullying: If you can’t persuade others to your point of view after repeated efforts, or bring them to accept or appreciate you, it may make sense to use force—physical or verbal—to bend the will of others towards your own. Your violence may be only implicit threats. Or it may evolve into aggression that causes fear or pushback—e.g., visible anger, yelling or physical assault. If your hostility becomes successful, it justifies itself. Bullying can become woven into the pattern of your negative personality traits.
Sadly, you may have become a bully!
*Originating in the 1530s, bully—from the Dutch boel—meant something like “sweetheart,” “lover” or “brother.” By the middle 1700s, the word’s connotations morphed from “jolly, worthy or admirable person” to “browbeater” and finally to “a person who harasses the weak.” Today’s enduringly negative definitions lean toward “someone who uses bluster or implied violence to get his way” or “someone who is habitually cruel.” The word’s synonyms are even more harsh—e.g., tormentor, tyrant, intimidator or aggressor. Nothing lovely or sweet there!
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