Earlier today my twitter feed exploded with hand-wringing and outrage about the death of a fourth grader who had come out as gay and after four days of bullying committed suicide. Predictably, a great many people bemoaned the fact that fourth graders are cruel and sought to use this story as fuel to their anti-bullying crusade. You can scarcely go into an elementary school and find that it has not publicly posted that the school is united against bullying and that bullying is not welcome there, and you will scarcely go into an elementary school and find bullying not present. Why is this? As someone who writes about bullying far more than I wish to, I would like to point out a perspective on the subject, and on this incident and others like it, that is perhaps not one that is often heard, and therefore worth saying, however often .
First of all, much attention has been made about the fact that the self-murderer had been bullied about his public declaration of homosexuality. Given the large amount of self-murder within their ranks over humiliation concerning their commitment to an ungodly life style, it is unsurprising that the rainbow coalition in favor of improper sexuality wants to eradicate bullying about such matters. Of course, fourth-graders bully others over a large number of issues. Growing up as a fairly isolated child myself in rural Central Florida, bullying was a continual process for many years of my life, and it remains part of my existence from time to time even now. From my personal observation and experience, children will bully those they see as weak and vulnerable for any reason possible. Are you shy? Are you poor? Do you have a funny accent? Do you talk fast or slow? Are you smart or dumb? Are your parents divorced or separated? Do you have unusual religious traditions? Are you a minority for some reason within the school community? I have been made fun of for many of these reasons and seen people made fun of for many of these reasons. Literally anything that makes one different from others is going to make someone a potential target for bullying. The more ways one is unusual and different, the more likely and frequent the bullying is going to be.
Parents may think that their little children are angelic creatures that would never say or do anything mean whatsoever, but children are often vicious and evil little creatures. This should not be a surprise to us, since they are our children after all, and we are vicious and evil creatures ourselves. At times the lack of self-restraint and self-censorship in children leads to them asking rather pertinent and important questions that no one else is brave enough to ask but that needs to be said by someone. At other times, though, the unrestrained selfishness of children is responsible for a great deal of tormenting of others. Children learn quickly that we live in a predatory world and that most people fall into one of two categories–predators or prey. It does not take most children very long to figure out that it is not very much fun being preyed on by others, and if there is going to be harshness in their world, they want to be the ones being harsh to others, as small and generally defenseless as they are. They are not stupid for wanting to be so–children are an extremely vulnerable population to being preyed on by others, and it is entirely unsurprising that children in a harsh world could act very harshly themselves.
Of course, it may be news to many self-professed anti-bullying activists that the world indeed is a harsh place and even more that it is an appropriate response to living in a harsh world to develop toughness. The bullies who mercilessly teased a young boy to suicide were harsh in viewing him as too weak to survive. But they were right. Being kind and being right are two different things. We live in a world where ideologies and philosophies and worldviews are continually in conflict, and where those who hold power are intensely harsh to those who have none. In such a world as ours, bullying and abuse are rife, even universal. Try going to a bar or stadium and cheering on the wrong team and you will see bullying. Go online and offer an unpopular opinion. Write a less than laudatory book review and watch your inbox and comment section explode with butt-hurt stans who are mad that your taste about anything differs from their own and you will see all the bullying you wish. Look at institutions and governments pass laws to protect the speech and dignity of some people and prevent that of others and you will see bullying at work too. Of course we live in a harsh world–the world is only kind if we can find or build communities of like-minded and like-souled beings to provide us with comfort and encouragement, and some people are slow in finding that.
Of course, many of those same activists of the first-time-flood-second-time-fire persuasion do not realize that they are bullies themselves. Whenever someone threatens violence against the lives or health or well-being of others because of a difference of opinion or worldview, that is bullying. Wishing to dox someone because they do something you dislike is bullying. Posting bees and committing various acts of slander and libel against others because you do not like them or like what they support or stand for is bullying. Wishing to abridge the freedom of speech or religion for others because they point out that God and you have different opinions on the propriety of your behavior is bullying. By any fair and just standard, many of those who profess to be against bullying are themselves bullies, just like by any fair and just standard many in our world who claim to be against fascism are themselves fascist brown shirts of a leftist persuasion. A lack of self-awareness prevents us from seeing the wider repercussions and ramifications of our ways of behavior. The desire on the part of many to use the coercive powers of government to support their worldview against others has made any issue with political implications–which is just about anything–into a hypercompetitive and unfriendly competition between different types of bullies. And even those–like, say, a Dennis Prager–who are not themselves bullies have to deal with bullies wishing to silence them because they cannot refute their arguments.
What are we to do about this? For one, we can thank those bullies that we come into contact with for helping us to be tougher and stronger. Given the harshness of the world, those who help us better handle it and deal with it and overcome it deserve our praise. For another, we can become more self-aware. Our arguments about bullying can become far more nuanced, and more beneficial to ourselves and others, to the extent that we are aware of how we appear to others. We who are against bullying can ourselves through our fierce and forceful presentations of our views and opinions and feelings and thoughts and philosophies and worldviews be viewed by others as bullies. I know this is the case for myself personally. By learning how we ourselves can easily become and support bullies, we can see bullies as flawed people like ourselves, and demand less perfection from a fallen and imperfect world filled with beings who at best struggle less than successfully to show kindness and graciousness to others and develop godly virtue and at worst actively show hostility to all of those things. Likewise, to the extent that we do develop strength in words and deeds, we can show a willingness to defend the vulnerable rather than to oppress them. We can, in other words, be neither predator nor prey, but rather seek to emulate the Good Shepherd himself, whose care for the lost sheep of the world remains present even in our present evil age.
 See, for example: