Today I received an invitation to a concert of a group I’ve never heard of (called 10th Concession) that is apparently helping out Ellen Degeneres’ anti-bullying campaign called “It Gets Better.” I have a lot of mixed feelings about such anti-bullying efforts, being a staunch foe of bullying but seeing a hostile and despicable hidden agenda in a lot of anti-bullying efforts that are being promoted in public because it is bullied degenerates who are committing suicide. Today I would therefore like to take the opportunity to muse on the space between the two camps that I inhabit to demonstrate that there is fair accusation to say that both sides are engaging in bullying or intimidation tactics.
What sort of a person is a bully? If you have ever had to fight against bullies, you will realize that most bullies are the worst sorts of cowards. They are a predatory sort of being, seeking strength in numbers and picking on stragglers who look smaller and more defenseless who don’t have the protection of the crowd to defend them. But once the bully is challenged, especially if the target is better able to defend itself than the bully thought (or bullies–as bullying is often done with a group against a solitary defender), the bully is often the quickest to whine about a fight being unfair (because the target defended himself) or the quickest to cower in fear when facing a bigger bully.
As might be expected, I have a fairly long personal history with the subject of bullying. As I have noted elsewhere, as a fairly individualistic person with a lengthy history of being an oddball and an outcast, I have attracted more than my fair share of would-be bullies who found me an easy target. I learned early on that it was necessary to fight back and prove one’s self to be a ferocious defender if one wished to fight off bullies looking for an easy fight, and after a savage childhood I found that most people learned quickly that I was not to be trifled with and could defend myself very capably. It was a common thing for me to be outnumbered 4 or 6 or even 8 to one by people wishing to bully, but that the numbers shrank rapidly to zero when one was able and willing to fight back.
It was an additional surprise to find that many of the people who bullied respected those who fought back. Having no interest ever in bullying others, it was intriguing to see how bullies respected the language of force even when they understood no other language (especially not my preferred language of intellectual discourse). Most bulliest are not born, but are made by being bullied by other people–abusive parents or authoritarian people in power whose attacks make them seek their own power and authority by fighting the weaker just as they were picked on themselves by the stronger. Bullying is often a “pay it forward” kind of phenomenon in a negative way, the spread of destruction and violence outward across generations.
After a long time of studying and seeing bullying, I realized that the bully itself is merely one form of person who suffers the abuses of others, one response that seeks to project strength as a cover for deep insecurities about weakness. People who have been treated with dignity and respect, and taught to treat others with dignity and respect, do not become bullies. It is that lust for power and domination that pervert people into bullies, and bulliest will pick on any sort of quality that can be found or claimed to belittle or attack the target, whether it is true or not.
At its core, bullying is the outward manifestation of the inwardly felt desire to be seen as strong and mighty and a person of authority while projecting on to others (the targets of the bullying) the weakness that the bullies themselves fear is in themselves. Bullies do not seek after people “their own size” and often greatly underestimate the strength of their victims, whose self control and resilience and strength of character are often far greater than the bulliest themselves. The failure to recognize the strength of others merely because it comes in less visible or domineering ways (especially if the target of bullying has no interest in dominating or oppressing others) is a terrible weakness that can be used against bullies, whether they are found in families, neighborhoods, schools, churches, or businesses.
I have spoken thus far in generalities because bullying is a broad phenomenon that occurs when people wish to oppress and exploit the weak and so consider themselves strong. Such strength (whether it is the search for positions of power to use to dominate others or the use of personal strength against others) is in fact weakness because of the lack of self-control on a part of the bullies. The true shepherd and servant-leader has a strength that bullies will never recognize because they lack the self-control to be able to rule their own lusts for power and domination, while the shepherd is able to serve with strength because the lusts for pleasure and domination are under strict control.
Because bullying is such a common phenomenon the moves being made by a lot of degenerate activists (like Ellen Degeneres) to demonize bullying of one specific (and often minor) type is itself highly reprehensible and political. Our society demonizes sexual harassment and racist jokes and anti-homosexual bullying, and groups are mobilized to speak out about the special types of bullying that they find offensive because it targets them, but does nothing about the underlying problem behind all bullying.
For one, the particular hate speech of the bully is itself simply what is available–whatever speech or action is abusive or hateful will be taken advantage of, as the bully is not often very choosy about it. For another, the bully is itself the symptom of a deeper problem, and the fact that activists of various stripes themselves join together in numbers and seek to out-bully the bullies themselves, shows themselves as part of the problem and not part of the solution. The solution is not to demonize bullying, as it is the sort of behavior any of us can be involved in if we are not careful and if we get carried away by our rhetoric to attack the person instead of the sin, but rather to fight the underlying problem of abuse and a lack of respect that breeds bullying of all kinds.
And this is precisely what is not done when people are “labeled” as being hatemongers or sexist or racist and thus considered beyond civilized discourse. To maliciously label someone else is to engage in bullying behavior. To deny someone’s humanity or dignity through hostile attacks is to bully someone. We are all very prickly (and rightfully so) of defending our own dignity and our own humanity–we ought to be very quick to recognize that of other people as well. After all, we are all created in the image of God, and we all struggle alike under the burden of sin and corruption that blight our world. God’s standard of behavior is a high one–one that forbids bullying and abuse just as it does all sorts of degenerate and sinful activity. We are all sinners–but all created in the image and likeness of God, and all redeemable if we repent and cease our rebellion against God.
No one is beyond the pale or beyond being treated with some sort of respect simply for being human. Even our worst and most hateful enemies are worthy of dignity because they are humans–and this we do not because others have not treated us with hateful or vile abuse, but because to treat others with respect and dignity is to show that we are better than our abusers and those who have bullied us because we refuse to that level, even with our hurt and righteous anger over the wrongs we have suffered. This is precisely what most of the prominent anti-bullying efforts do not do. What they do not do is point to the standard of godly behavior that governs all behavior, but rather the promise that the bullied person is not behaving wrong at all and that the bully is a total barbarian who can be forgotten when one is around a group of supportive people who will not find any fault in your behavior at all. The inability to distinguish between the wrong of bullying and the correct standard of moral behavior that a person bullied may fall woefully and visibly short of, leads to the anti-bully often becoming a bully of a different type–an antinomian bully against God’s law because of the way in which it seeks to regulate their conduct.
It would appear then that the bully is a coward for several reasons–for one, the bully attacks others out of weakness and wishes to project strength despite lacking self-control, making the bully’s efforts self-defeating. Additionally, the bully cannot pick on someone his own size because the bully inwardly knows himself to be weak, and thus incapable of handling the challenge of fighting someone who is truly strong. Additionally, the bully is unable to give others the respect and dignity that he himself (or that they themselves) demand, nor accept the existence and validity of a standard of behavior that is outside of themselves and their own subjective value judgments.
The biggest difficulty is how to breach the defenses of the bully to force them to recognize their own strength and the fact that there will always be something or someone more powerful than they themselves who defends those who cannot defend themselves (namely God). As no bully can be supreme in power or authority, there must always be the reality of having to accept an outside authority. The reality of external standards of behavior as well as the dignity of all human beings because of the dignity of their Creator must be impressed upon the bully for the behavior to change. A recognition that one’s honor is not due to one’s position of domination over others but because of the way in which we serve others with the gifts and talents and abilities that we have been given is necessary as well to move from a bully to a shepherd, through the development of a recognition of truth and practicing it to develop the strength and self-control needed to be beyond bullying. Once the bully has developed sufficient strength of character, the bully can cease from bullying others–even other bullies.