Bullying is no trivial matter. A British study found that more than 40 percent of the youth suicides reported in the national media appeared to involve bullying as a contributing factor.
What is bullying?
Bullying includes more than physical assaults. It can also involve the following.
Verbal attacks. “Girls can be brutal with their words,” says 20-year-old Celine. “I’ll never forget the names they called me or the things they said. They made me feel worthless, unwanted, and good-for-nothing. I’d rather have been given a black eye.”
Social isolation. “My schoolmates started to avoid me,” says 18-year-old Haley. “They would make it seem that there was no room at the lunch table so I couldn’t sit with them. For the whole year, I cried and ate alone.”
Cyberbullying. “With just a few keystrokes on a computer,” says 14-year-old Daniel, “you can ruin someone’s reputation—or even his life. It sounds like an overstatement, but it can happen!” Cyberbullying also includes sending harmful photos or text messages using a cell phone.
Why do people bully others?
These are some common reasons.
They themselves have been bullied. “I was so sick and tired of being mistreated by my peers that I began to bully others just to fit in,” admits a young man named Antonio. “Later I looked back and realized how wrong it was to do that!”
They have poor role models. “Many times young bullies treat other people . . . the way they see their parents, older brothers and sisters, or other family members treat others,” writes Jay McGraw in his book Life Strategies for Dealing With Bullies.
They act as if they are superior—and yet they’re insecure. “Kids who bully have an air of superiority that is often a mask to cover up deep hurt and a feeling of inadequacy,” notes Barbara Coloroso in her book The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander.
Who is most likely to be a target?
Loners. Some young people who lack social skills isolate themselves from others and become easy marks for bullies.
Youths who are perceived as being different. Some youths are targeted by bullies because of their appearance, race, or religion or even because they have a disability—anything the bully can pick on.
Youths who lack self-confidence. Bullies can detect those who think negatively of themselves. These are often the easiest targets, since they’re not likely to fight back.
What can you do if you’re bullied?
Don’t react. “Bullies want to know that they’ve succeeded in making you feel bad about yourself,” says a young woman named Kylie. “If you don’t react, they lose interest.” The Bible says: “He that is wise keeps it calm to the last.”—Proverbs 29:11.
Don’t walk into trouble. To the extent possible, avoid people and situations where bullying may occur.—Proverbs 22:3.
Try an unexpected response. The Bible says: “An answer, when mild, turns away rage.”—Proverbs 15:1.
Use humor. For example, if a bully asserts that you’re overweight, you could simply shrug your shoulders and say, “I guess I could lose a few pounds!”
Walk away. “Silence shows that you are mature and that you are stronger than the person harassing you,” says 19-year-old Nora. “It demonstrates self-control—something the bully doesn’t have.”
Work on your self-confidence. “Bullies notice when you aren’t relaxed,” says a girl named Rita, “and they might use that to destroy whatever self-confidence you have.”
Tell someone. According to one survey, more than half of all victims who are bullied online don’t report what’s going on, possibly because of shame (especially for boys) or fear of retaliation. But remember, bullies thrive on secrecy. Speaking up can be the first step to ending the nightmare.