Bullying- a global problem. What Can you do about it?

at work
at school

“If you come to school tomorrow, we’ll kill you.”

“I am not an emotional person, but I got to the point of not wanting to go to school/work. My stomach hurt, and every morning after breakfast, I threw up.”


Are we familiar with these? HAVE you ever had to deal with a bully? Most of us have at one time or another. It may have been at school or in the workplace, or it may even have occurred right at home—where such abuse of power is played out with alarming frequency these days. A British source, for instance, estimates that 53 percent of adults are verbally bullied by a spouse or a live-in partner. Bullies and their victims may be of either gender and from any walk of life in any part of the world.

Types of Bullies

Physical Bullies: These are the easiest to identify. They act out their anger by hitting, shoving, or kicking their chosen target—or by damaging their victim’s property.

Verbal Bullies: They use words to hurt and humiliate their target, through either name-calling, insults, or persistent, harsh teasing.

Relationship Bullies: They spread nasty rumors about their target. This behavior is predominantly adopted by female bullies.

Reactive Victims: These are victims of bullying who turn into bullies themselves. Of course, their having been victims of bullying does not excuse their conduct; it only helps to explain it.

What exactly constitutes bullying? It is not quite the same as harassment or assault. It tends to involve many small incidents that accumulate over time rather than a single incident or a few of them. Psychologist Dan Olweus, a pioneer in the systematic study of bullying, identifies common elements of this behavior, such as deliberate aggressiveness and a marked inequality in terms of power.

Perhaps no single definition covers all aspects of bullying, but it has been called “a willful, conscious desire to hurt another and put him/her under stress.” The stress is created not only by what actually happens but also by fear of what might happen. Tactics may include harsh teasing, constant criticism, insults, gossip, and unreasonable demands.

Bullying Is Global

  • A survey published in Pediatrics in Review reveals that in Norway, 14 percent of children are either bullies or victims.
  • In Japan, 15 percent of primary school pupils say that they are bullied
  • in Australia and Spain, the problem prevails among 17 percent of students
  • In Britain one expert figures that 1.3 million children are involved in bullying.

A new and insidious development is digital bullying—the sending of menacing text messages via cell phones and computers. Youths also create hate-filled Web pages about a victim, including personal information. According to Dr. Wendy Craig of Queen’s University in Canada, this form of bullying is “extraordinarily damaging to the child who is being victimized by it.”

Breaking Free From Bullying

Bullying is learned behavior, and anything learned can be unlearned.’—Dr. C. Sally Murphy.

THE bully and the victim of bullying both need help. The bully needs to learn to relate to others without abusing power. And the victim of bullying needs some practical tools to cope with the problem.

Often, the bully does not know how to relate to others and fails to understand the feelings of those he intimidates. He needs to be monitored and taught to communicate properly. The book Take Action Against Bullying says: “Unless new behaviors are learned and adopted, bullies continue to bully throughout their lifetime. They bully their mates, their children, and possibly their underlings in their place of business.”

  1. Help Not to Bully-Training children early in life to be empathetic can help to prevent them from turning into bullies. As a parent, you should not leave such training entirely to some school program. If you do not want your child to become a bully, you need to teach him by word and by example how to treat others with respect and dignity. What can assist you? Likely, you have readily available an excellent but underappreciated source of training in this regard—God’s Word, the Bible. How can it help?For one thing, it teaches clearly how God feels about bullying. He despises it! The Bible says of God: “Anyone loving violence His soul certainly hates.” (Psalm 11:5)
  2. Help for the Victims-Victims of bullying, particularly the young, face a difficult challenge—that of maintaining balance under pressure. When someone bullies you, he is probably eager to throw you off balance emotionally. He is hoping that you will resort to extremes of anger or show terror. If you fly into a fit of rage or burst into tears and express hurt or fear, the bully is getting what he wants. So he may try to provoke the same reaction again and again.

What can you do? Consider the following suggestions. They are written primarily with the young in mind, but the principles may also apply to adults dealing with bullies.

Keep cool. Don’t give in to rage. The Bible wisely advises: “Let anger alone and leave rage.” (Psalm 37:8) When your temper is out of control, you give the bully power over you, and you are likely to do things you will only regret.Proverbs 25:28.

Try to put thoughts of revenge out of your mind. Vengeance often backfires. At any rate, revenge is not really satisfying. One girl, who was beaten up by five youths when she was 16 years old, recalls: “I decided in my heart, ‘I will get even with them.’ So I got some help from my friends and took revenge on two of my attackers.” The result? “I was left with an empty feeling,” she says. And her own conduct worsened afterward. Remember the Bible’s wise words: “Return evil for evil to no one.”Romans 12:17.

When things appear to be getting heated, get away quickly. The Bible says: “Before the quarrel has burst forth, take your leave.” (Proverbs 17:14) In general, try to steer clear of those who tend to bully. Says Proverbs 22:3: “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself, but the inexperienced have passed along and must suffer the penalty.”

If bullying persists, you may need to speak up for yourself. Choose a moment when you are calm, look the bully in the eye, and speak in a firm, level voice. Tell him that you don’t like what he is doing—that it is not funny and that it hurts. Do not resort to insults or challenges.Proverbs 15:1.

Talk to a responsible, caring adult about the bullying. Be specific about the problem, and ask for help in handling it. Do the same in your prayers to God, and this can be a wonderful source of help and comfort.

Remember that you have value as a person. The bully might want you to think that you don’t matter, that you deserve to be treated badly. But he is not your judge. God is, and he looks for the good in each of us. It is the bully who becomes less worthwhile by resorting to such conduct.

Parents—Protect Your Children

Parents too can start early in preparing their children to deal wisely with bullies. They can, for example, use role-playing games with their children to demonstrate how to project a sense of confidence.

Even physical posture—standing up straight—can send a subtle message that dissuades some bullies. Making eye contact, keeping hands and arms relaxed, and speaking in a firm, steady voice may help too. Parents are urged to teach their child to walk away, to avoid bullies, and to ask a trustworthy adult for help, such as a schoolteacher.

Eliminating bullying behavior starts with educating the family. Parents who make themselves available to their children, listening patiently and em-pathetically to their concerns, instill in them a feeling that they are wanted, supported, and loved. Many professionals in the field of parenting and peer problems urge parents to provide their children with a positive view of themselves. Such a healthy outlook reduces their appeal as targets in the eyes of bullies.

But more is involved than simply talking. Each member of the family needs to learn to treat others with respect and dignity and to cultivate empathy. So do not tolerate any bullying behavior in your household. Make your home a safe haven, where respect and love prevail.