Bullies: You, Me and Everyone Else


In TV, movies, books and even the news, we are seeing bullies like they are their own race. With a black and white view, we see Person 1) a bully and Person 2) a victim. Not much else is looked into, because we refuse to accept that even victims can be bullies and even bullies can be (surprise) victims.

We’re forgetting to realize who we’re talking about. Are bullies their own separate people? They live among us, but can we label them properly? Sure, some stand out as especially mean, but can we actually identify bullies if we don’t look at ourselves first?

What this means? To solve any problem of bullying, simple and generalized ideas that we’d like to be true must be disposed of.

Recognizing the reality that a person can be both bully and be bullied doesn’t lessen the significance of bullying and the impacts it can have. Bullying remains a serious problem, especially among teenagers. The effects of bullying are not something imagined. Once hurt, the feeling one has after being bullied remains.

But if we fail to see ourselves as possibly hurtful people, it’s impossible to actually solve the problems that bullies create. That’s why it’s important to understand that people, just Average Joes like you and me, can be mean. And we are.

It’s almost a fact that everybody has hurt somebody. Unless you’ve locked yourself in a socially-aloof dome with no possible communication, chances are you’ve been a a Big Old B-word to somebody. Most likely, you’ve hurt somebody.

As scary as this realization is, we all must also realize that we’ve been hurt by others. If you aren’t willing to accept that you’ve been stung by another person’s words or actions, you’re probably a liar and shouldn’t be answering my rhetorical questions.

I could give you a grocery-list style listing of all the times someone has crushed me (and most often publicly). Although I’d like to list names, say what they did, and why their words have stuck with me after years, I have to accept that even they (as cruel as they are) are hurt by other people. And I (as much as I’d not like to say) have inflicted that same form of brutal unkindness upon others.

It’s a vicious circle that we practice. There is no clear “bully” and there is no clear “victim”. We can’t walk down the halls at school and tag the saints and the sinners. We can’t pretend we’re completely virtuous, nor can we act as though others are completely malevolent.

The problem of the hatred we have towards each other could never be accurately addressed unless we are able to say that, ”Hey, I’ve been a total jerk to this guy. And I was absolutely horrible to this person. What he did to me was not okay and what I did to her was also not cool.”

We’ll make mistakes and continue making mistakes, but the bigger problems where our moral judgments come into play can be stopped if we can accept that we’re all the antagonists, and we’re all the protagonists.

Knowing who we are, what we’re capable of and how we’re impacted by others is only the first step in stopping this cruel chain that is bullying. When we see that we’re all insecure, conflicted and still figuring out how things work is when the real progress begins.

Opinion and illustration: Andy Gottschalk