Treat the Cause, Not Just the Symptoms of Bullying: Encourage Those Who Bully to Forgive
A story in yesterday’s newspaper and a conversation with a doctoral student today has led me to this conclusion: Well-meaning people are making progress in confronting the student-bullying problem across the world…..and yet most of these professionals are not looking closely enough at the real problem to find the best solution.
The newspaper article, “Bullish on anti-bully business,” appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
One main point of the article is that some professionals are offering solutions in schools to those students who have been victimized. As one example, encouraging the bullied students to find ways to calmly stand their ground when being bullied can be a way of diffusing the bullying behavior. It seems to work.
When I talked with the graduate student today, she had just finished a masterful review of the bullying literature in the psychological sciences. She reported that a key research topic presently is to examine the coping strategies of those being bullied. Those who seek social support from friends and teachers, for example, cope better with the effects of bullying than do those victims who cry.
The newspaper article and the research documented by the graduate student converge on the same theme: Help the victim.
We continue to suggest the untried theme that may seem counter-intuitive today, but will appear obvious to many in the future: Yes, help the victim, but also help the one who is bullying to get rid of his or her anger, which is fueling the bullying.
Those who bully have been victimized by others. Help them to reduce their resentment toward those who were the victimizers and the bullying behavior will melt away. Why? Because wanting to harm others comes out of a position of profound woundedness within. Angry people are wounded people and angry, wounded people are the ones who lash out at others, even when these “others” did nothing whatsoever to provoke the verbal or physical attack.
We point principals, teachers, and parents to our Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program, intended to melt that anger in the one who bullies…..so that victims are no longer victims…..because the one bullying has no need any more to throw his wounds onto others. Forgiveness heals those wounds.
It is time.
This approach makes a lot of sense. I am a long-time teacher and I can see the benefit of approaching bullying this way.