There’s a lot of talk about bullies and bullying these days. And while I 100% agree that no one should bully anyone else, it’s a tad unrealistic to demand such.
You see, what all these discussions and regulations miss is the perspective of the bully. Yes, the bully’s point of view matters too. In fact, no solution that neglects this perspective will be effective. Bullies are half the problem.
I’ve had many bullies in my life. And as much as I hate to admit it, I too bullied another at one point. I still remember the hurt feelings that make-believe currency in the fifth grade caused, and my heart hurts thinking about how much hers must have back then.
Why did I do it? Because I was hurting myself and instead of dealing with it, I deflected my pain to her. It wasn’t right. It isn’t excusable. But it is understandable.
I think the root of most bullying is pain. If someone doesn’t feel loved, they don’t want others to feel it either. If they don’t feel accepted, no one else should be accepted. If they don’t feel in control, they want others to experience that same lack of control. Again, it isn’t right. But it is understandable.
So how do we stop it? How do we stop bullies from hurting others? It’s hard to love someone who is mean to us, who is intentionally causing us pain and suffering. It’s hard to feel beyond our pain. But we need to try.
We can’t keep “solving” problems without actually addressing the root issues. Bullying won’t stop until we address what makes people feel the need to bully others.
As I stated earlier, I’ve experienced my share of bullies. Some have bullied to feel powerful. I would guess they felt powerless most of the time. Some have bullied to make me feel insignificant, most likely because they feel small. Some out of hate, probably because they don’t feel loved.
Yes, we should stand up to bullies and we shouldn’t let people bully each other. But we also shouldn’t write off the bully. Writing them off, neglecting them further, refusing to hear them out, to understand their pain, well, that won’t stop the bullying no matter how many times we stand up to them.
Bullies are people too. They want the same love and acknowledgement and hope and control that we want. But when they don’t get it, they don't want you, too either.
Empathy always leads to better solutions because empathy helps us better understand the actual problem.
The next time you witness bullying after you stop the attack, take a moment to try and understand what provoked it. Try and respond with love and not hate. After all, bullies need love too.