Sunday, 2 March 2014

Ending Bullying - At What Price?

Ending Bullying - At What Price?

Bullying is a subject that we hear about quite alot, that it is bad and that it must stop. That there is zero tolerance for such behavior. But what I find so remarkable about this topic is the lack of understanding about bullying. Let me be clear from the start that I have been bullied and it doesn't only occur in childhood or in your teenage years. As an adult I've known people who have been bullied out of jobs. Bullying is a topic that everyone has an opinion on because everyone has been bullied. People remember being bullied, teased, provoked, hit, excluded, humiliated. What surprises me, but maybe shouldn't, is that few remember being the bully. Because there are very few people who have not bullied. 

Sometimes bullying is clear, it's unmistakable, but that is not always the case. Whats the difference between teasing and bullying? Whats the difference between fighting and attacking someone? There is a difference but when you start thinking about it you start to realise that the easy answers aren't really adequate. 

What is bullying? It is normal human behavior that has been taken beyond what is accepted. There is nothing unusual about people not liking each other. There is nothing unusual about people not keeping it to themselves. Sadly it's not unusual for it to be nasty, in word or more rarely in deed. But it is all still normal behavior. But like all things it can go too far, it is here that bullying occurs, in that space between normal and extreme.

But is bullying all bad? Most bullying helps prepare us for life, it toughens us up, it makes us understand the difference between little hurts and big hurts. Life hurts, and it never stops hurting and teasing and bullying help us prepare for the hurt that life will throw our way. It is a painful part of life, we want everyone to like us even to love us, but thats not the real world, not even for children. And most of us will move on from having been bullied, we will be able to protect ourselves and our egos because we can now tell the difference between the little hurts and the big hurts. We are also more capable of fighting back, something that was not always possible when we were young.

If bullying is a part of life then it's ok? In small doses yes, but bullying must not be allowed to get out of hand, in it's extreme it is a form of terrorism. The aim being to destroy the person being bullied, not to teach them a lesson, not to prove your better than them but to destroy their peace of mind and to cause them harm. It is in these cases that the most serious punishment should be reserved. 

As bullying is a normal part of human behavior it cannot be eliminated, it can only be managed. The extreme view that we see around us that bullying can be eliminated is not true at all. In fact one of the ironies of this approach is that it can turn into a form of bullying itself. Being well meaning is not enough. The idea that you can get every act of bullying and stamp it out is quite extremist. 

The idea that we can stop all pain and that we can prevent all hurt is not true, all we can do is manage it.

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