13 Sep Why do people bully?
Nobody is born a bully.
In fact, have you ever heard someone say, “Oh she can’t help it, it’s in her genes”? Well, research has come out showing that even if we have a gene that determines we are going to be aggressive, it does NOT mean that we WILL be aggressive. It only means that we may have a tendency for aggression. We have the power to be whoever we want to be.
The great news is that you decide your fate. You make your decisions, and you choose which action best represents who you wish to be. You don’t have to listen to what other people say about your abilities – you decide how great you will be at something.
So, why do some people bully?
Many theories exist, but we think that people who bully are hurting inside – really hurting. Think about it. Think about the state of mind it would take to want to be so cruel. Doesn’t it seem like that state of mind comes from a person who is in a lot of pain himself (or herself!)?
Yes, some bullies can seem very confident on the outside. They may even appear to have great self-esteem. They may be quite popular. Do you think that ANYONE who feels truly good about himself deep down inside feels the need to be mean to someone else? Bullies may not be conscious of their hurt inside, but it seems the hurt is partly to blame for why someone would knowingly hurt someone else. (The hurt may stem from many, many different factors that we are not going to go into here.)
To understand this process of inner pain turned outward, we offer you an example from a real life story included in the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. In it, the author tells of Henrietta’s son who has to go live with his Aunt after Henrietta dies. His mother’s death is never discussed with him. He is just sent to live with his aunt who punishes him (most often for silly ridiculous things) by making him stand in the corner of the basement on one leg with his nose touching the wall for hours. If she caught him with both feet touching the ground, the aunt would beat him with a metal rod. Well, can you guess how the boy starts to behave? He starts shooting people with a BB gun from the roof of his house. He starts fighting at school and generally letting his anger explode at every one around him. Everyone started talking about how nasty this boy was, but really this boy had been hurt so severely, that he hurt others.
Thus a person who bullies may think: If someone has shown contempt (hatred) for me by treating me horribly, I will show contempt for others by treating others horribly. At least I have power over someone and am not the bottom of the totem pole, so to speak.
That is why punishment for the bully only makes the problem worse. It inflicts more hurt on a person already hurting. Instead, bullies need to learn compassion, empathy and how to mend the pain they feel. Heal the pain. Heal the bully. This can be quite difficult to achieve. Schools and communities need to step up to ensure that the bullies cannot hurt others, but in all cases, bullies need to be reached with an understanding that they can be and deserved to be helped.