Bullying occurs when someone is knowingly and repeatedly hurtful towards another person in order to make the person feel physically, mentally or emotionally uncomfortable. Bullying occurs when someone tries to damage another person’s reputation. Bullying is often intended to exclude someone from a group or a place.
Bullying is not the same as rudeness. Sometimes people inconsiderately push others, ignore others or speak unkindly without thinking about how their rude behaviour affects people around them. This is not the same as bullying. Bullying is deliberately and repeatedly hurting people.
Bullying can be seen in movies and on television shows. It can sometimes be seen in homes, in schools and in public places.
How many times have you seen someone deliberately and repeatedly try to hurt someone else?
(never / seldom / sometimes / often)
1. Pushing in order to make someone feel unwanted
2. Hitting in order to injure or intimidate
3. Taking something away from someone in order to intimidate
4. Name-calling or unfriendly teasing
5. Negative talk toward someone who is present
6. Glances between people to make others feel excluded
7. Pressuring someone to do something they shouldn’t do
8. Negative talk about someone who is not present
9. Telling only part of the truth in order to make someone be disliked
10. Telling lies in order to make someone be disliked
11. Sending negative email or text messages about someone
Bullying can be illegal. Once you are 12 years old, you can be charged with various offences:
• libel (writing unkind or untrue things about someone either in notes or on the internet)
• slander (saying unkind or untrue things about someone)
Anything that you send through the internet can be traced back to you. So, you can also be held accountable for participating in a bullying conversation that happens in cyberspace.
“It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.” – Samuel Adams
What should you do if you find yourself in a situation where bullying is happening?
Sadly, bullies often succeed because observers do not speak up. It is often impossible for bullied people to defend themselves. When they say something, people reply, “Oh, don’t worry about it.” or “Just ignore them and they’ll go away.” or even “You must have done something wrong or they wouldn’t have noticed you.” When the bullied try to defend themselves, other people are often afraid to get involved or they simply don’t care. Be brave and speak up against people who are mean. Go find a trusted adult and tell the truth about what you have observed. Defend the defenceless.
“The simple step of a courageous individual is not to take part in the lie. One word of truth outweighs the world.” – Alexander Solzhenitsyn
“I swore never to be silent whenever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” – Elie Weisel
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” – Bishop Desmond Tutu
“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” – Edmund Burke
“First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.” – Martin Neimoller, concentration camp survivor
“He who allows oppression, shares the crime.” – Erasmus Darwin
“Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.” – Paulo Freire
“Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it politic? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular- but one must take it simply because it is right.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” – Haile Selassie
“A time comes when silence is betrayal.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Be a person of integrity and good character. . .
What kind of person are you?
1. honest, even when you have to tell a friend you don’t want to participate in bullying
2. kind, showing friendliness even to people who aren’t your friends
3. courageous, telling bullies to stop and telling an adult about the behaviour
4. considerate, speaking up for people who are left out of a group
5. humble, not needing to think yourself better than others
6. reasonable and rational, recognizing that you can take care of yourself without hurting others
What do you need to do to take care of yourself?
1. Competence: practise doing something that is honourable until you can do it well; e.g. basketball, piano, reading, track and field, cooking, writing, being friendly
2. Belonging: find some good people with whom to be friends, people who build others up and encourage them
3. Independence: think of the ways in which you are allowed to make your own decisions; enjoy those choices that life allows you
4. Fun: be grateful every day for the little things that are enjoyable
If ever you feel yourself feeling good after saying something hurtful, you need to take care of yourself in a healthier way. You also need to be courageous: go and apologize.
If you ever find yourself being bullied, ask a trusted adult for advice.
If you ever discover someone else’s reputation is being damaged, ask a trusted adult for advice.
[This page may be copied for use with students if the following credit is provided: ©2012 Sophie Rosen.]