As the parent of kids in elementary school, I’ve sat through the presentations and read the paperwork on bullying. As the kind of person who wears her heart on her sleeve, I remember all too well the bullying I endured when I was a kid. It usually follows the same pattern. Someone who is more “powerful” than you in some way picks on you in such a way that they think that they won’t get caught and that you cannot retaliate.
The thing about bullies is that they often do NOT get caught, or at least do not get penalized for what they have done. It’s a catch-22. If you try to stand up to them, you may end up worse off than what you started. I’ve been watching this happen in my daughter’s class for the last several months. One little girl is smart enough to know to taunt only when the teacher isn’t around. If the other kids tell on her, they are treated as snitches, and the bully is further empowered.
I don’t think bullying stops, however, when we get our high school diplomas. In fact, I see it a lot among adults. Of course, we aren’t all threatening to flush each other’s heads in the toilet or shove each other into lockers. It’s more subtle. It’s an affiliate manager threatening us not to go public with information about their program or they will drop us from it. The “power” that they wield is financial rather than physical. It’s a poster in a forum who continuously responds to our posts in such a snarky way that we quit even posting. Their “power” is that they know that no one will call them out on it because they are either too integral to the forum or no one wants to face their wrath.
It’s an unfortunate reality of life that the weaker will always be picked on by the stronger. Bullies will always find a way to intimidate and often will not get called out on it. How the rest of us deal with it is the key. Will we stand up for ourselves? Will we stand up for each other?