Bullying: who has the power?

by Jennifer Dyer

Bullying is often an issue of power. In many cases the bully-er is not a “bad” person, and they may not even be intending to hurt others. Some kids (and adults) feel the world would be a better place if it were run by them. They tend to mow over others in order to maintain that position of power. Other people enjoy the power they feel from being hateful and rude to others. They usually have some deep psychological issues from their own feelings of inferiority and lack of power. Some people are taught to hate by those around them and may continue to live in that ignorance.

Why is this important to understand? It helps to know the “enemy.” I want my daughter to understand why people do mean things. Are they afraid? Has someone made them feel so small that this is their only way to deal with the world? Perhaps their lives lack compassion, or perhaps they have no idea that they hurt others by their words. Perhaps they lack a personal edit button. Whatever the reason, once we understand the heart of a person it is easier to love them, to deal with them, to pray for them, to forgive them, and to have compassion for them. Forgiving and having compassion for someone who has hurt you is a way to transfer power, so to speak.

In my post for MomLifeToday entitled, “Bullying: How does a mother deal with it?” I spoke of meeting a black woman who had grown up in the deep south before the 1960’s. If anyone understood bullying, it was her. She told me some of the most heart wrenching stories, but instead of living in bitterness, she lived in peace, love, and understanding of those who persecuted her because of her wise mother. Her mother helped her see that the people who hated her just didn’t understand God and His amazing love. They even prayed for those who hurt them as a family. Amazing! Through her parent’s support, she grew into an amazing person in spite of the hate she endured.

In addition to understanding “the enemy,” understanding self is important. I remember an instance where someone “hurt my feelings.” One of my friends shook his head at me and said, “No, he didn’t hurt your feelings. You allowed his actions to have an impact on your feelings. You are giving him the power over your emotions.” Yes, we could argue that this is not always accurate, or that simple, but my friend’s advice helped me see that I had power over how I let others affect me. I could choose, to an extent, how much I let someone’s actions or words to impact my life. Suddenly, I was empowered.

What are some ways you have helped your children understand others and deal with the negative words and actions that have affected them?

Also, a good book for reading and discussing the bullying issue with your children is, Blubber, by Judy Blume.  (Book review on Blubber.)

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