Compassion for the Bully

Have you ever been bullied or been a bully yourself? Chances are, if you have siblings, you have experienced both sides of this at some point. However, what about when this transfers into school or elsewhere? I know I was quite an angry child and acted out frequently… often not thinking twice about hurting others. I look back now and I’m definitely not proud of having been frequently mean to others. I was a child on both ends of this spectrum… I was picked on at times for sure. I also was a bully many times over.

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lonely and hurting

I firmly believe that no individual, adult or child, lashes out to hurt others UNLESS he/she is hurting inside. Think about it… why would anyone feel the need to trample on the spirits of another human being unless striving to feel superior and attempt to build up their sense of self-worth in some way? There is never a need to step on someone while they are down unless people are so incredibly desperate to try to make themselves feel better.

How Does This Make Sense?!?

I know what you’re thinking… but how does that make the bully feel better? Well, in reality, it doesn’t! Chances are, the bully has not been taught or modeled the desired skills OR doesn’t have the self-esteem to implement those skills. Leiloni Schulz explains this well in her review of the book The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict by The Arbinger Institute.

The anatomy of peace begins, and ends with one very important concept, and that is whether or not your own heart is at war, or at peace… if your heart is at peace, you see people as people, but when your heart is at war, you see people as objects.”

Sadly, it is also possible that another reason the bully may act out outside of the home is that the outside world is the only place it may be safe enough to do so. There are a few extremely authoritative people out there and some of them are raising children. If the child cannot be a child at home, chances are there is hurt and the child will act out somewhere.

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Empowering the Victim

As the mother of four children, anytime my kids have come home with complaints of someone being mean to them at school or somewhere else that we believe our children should always feel safe at, I know what it feels like to go into “Mama Bear mode.” You want that child no longer involved with your child in any way, shape or form. You wish that child would move, change schools, etc. or you want to talk to the school about moving your own child. A while ago, I tried a different approach that worked the best for one of my children.

At the time, my daughter was frequently coming home complaining of yet another mean thing another child in her class was doing to her. She was being called names, tripped, things like that. I could relate to how she felt from my own childhood experiences. I wanted to freak out! I wanted to call the school and demand the child be removed, but I didn’t. The first few occasions, I responded with a “What?!? Is that ever nasty! Why would he do these things?”

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Change in the Response

Then, as this progressed, I responded with this instead, “Wow! I sure feel sorry for that kid! He must really be hurting if he feels he needs to talk to you or others like that or do these mean things.” I encouraged her to let him know that she felt sorry for him rather than give him the power by reacting to what he was saying as he had come to expect from her. I also encouraged her to look for good, any good, in this other child.

After some convincing, she did this! She indicated that she got some funny looks from this boy at the time, but I couldn’t be happier to say that she is no longer a target for him. It is no longer empowering to bully her. The video below explains this concept well. I am not sure if we can ever stop bullying altogether because that would mean we would have to stop people from hurting and attempting to feel dominant to begin with.

Compassion for the Bully

I know as a kid, I often would have given anything to be told I was loved and accepted for who I am. Instead, when I acted out and hit others or hurt them in some way, I got the opposite response. When I look back, I don’t think I knew how to ask for what I really needed so I acted out instead, hoping I would get what I was actually looking for. The results were that I had fewer friends and was likely seen by many as a mean little kid. I know a couple of adults that referred to me as being a mean kid and at least one that refused to have her child play with me.

Am I mean in reality? No, not at all. Have I been mean at times in my life? Definitely, especially as a child. Can I tell you today what things were going on for me that contributed to my anger? You betcha, but I couldn’t at that time!

In Summary

I guess my point is this… some angry kids who are being mean just need to know they are loved, respected and accepted as human beings. I agree that some kids can be hard to love… To a certain extent, I was that kid!  

When we have kids on the receiving end of this hurt and anger, it is important that they realize they are also loved for who they are. It is also crucial to point out for them that they are not the underlying cause or real target of this person’s anger. It is also necessary to give our kids the tools to protect themselves in these situations so they aren’t chosen as the “object” for which the bully targets his/her hurt or anger

Teaching our kids to hate the bully, though? Since hate breeds hate, that results in an everybody loses situation. The only way this can be overcome for our kids today as well as the kids in future generations will be with compassion and kindness. It is time to break the cycle and reach out to all.

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How About You?

Have you been a bully at any point in your life? Have you had any moments in your life where you responded in a manner that would be out of character for who you truly are? Do you have children who either struggle with being bullies or being bullied? If so, how do you handle it? Let me know in the comments below.

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22 Comments

  1. Sometimes the smallest acts can have the greatest everlasting consequences I was bullied and picked on a summer camp bus because of my race and sex.it was horrific and daily until a bunch of girls from my bus stop befriended me and stuck up for me and taught me how to fight off my bullies. Being called those names daily was awful but it taught me that the world is full of bullies, but that not everyone is like that and that I can and should stand up for myself. I suppose the bullies get bullied at home. I can only imagine how prejudiced and mean-spirited their own parents were.

  2. Such a good post. My six year old son is bullied by three different children at school. All of whom really want to be his friend and don’t know how to do it without name calling, teasing and physical aggression. I talk to him nearly daily about much of what you said and the school administration and teacher in the classroom have done a great job about working with the boys together in better ways to interact and be together.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope everything gets worked out between your son and the other three children soon. It is definitely not easy seeing our children hurting. I’m glad you are also being supported by the school.

  3. Good perspective. We recently had a shooting threat at our local high school. They boy who threatened had been bullied for years to the point his parents moved him to a different state. Hurting people hurt people. We all need to just have more compassion.

    1. Yes, and hopefully that compassion can stop the bully from hurting so much in the first place so it doesn’t get that serious.

  4. I loved this post so much! I was like you, growing up. My parents fought all of the time and I was the oldest child so I felt it was my responsibility to step in so my sisters and I could get some sleep. I also got spanked a lot and grounded because of this. I tried to hide everything at school by being a bubbly social person, but I could get angry very quickly. I got into fights all of the time until I entered high school. I felt like that was how I needed to protect my self. Now that I’m older, I actually have nightmares and I found that when I confront a person that I had wronged and apologized, it went away.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Brittany! I’m glad you were also able to work through your past and reflect on it today. I know that I’m relieved I have grown and am able to reflect on my past and what was going on for me as well. I’m also relieved that I am a lot kinder today! 🙂

  5. This is a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing. I definitely relate with being the bully and the victim as a child. It’s great to see a different perspective.

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