Yesterday I asked for people to define bullying. I had a few people offer definitions in private communication, a few on my facebook wall and one here on my blog. Steve, very poignantly stated,

"The more I think about it, the less sure I become of what my definition is."

Thanks for the honesty Steve. This actually made me stop and wonder if bullying isn't a little bit like theology. I know that probably sounds weird. In theology there are boundaries where you can only say what something is or is not but you can't state both. In other words, is bullying one of those things that has a slippery definition because no matter what definition you use it can be twisted by people who want to manipulate the words? I think it might be.

This is important because it will cause some people to want to minimize bullying. The truth is though that almost all of the time, when we see bullying we know what it is. But that brings me back to our friends who might be claiming to be bullied simply because they are not getting their way.

Steve actually gave a great definition yesterday. He said:

So ultimately I think that they key with bullying is that the motivation is harming or belittling others, or otherwise causing unnecessary pain.

He went to the heart of the action. The government actually does the same thing. The webpage, actually gives a threefold definition. It says,

  • Imbalance of Power: people who bully use their power to control or harm and the people being bullied may have a hard time defending themselves
  • Intent to Cause Harm: actions done by accident are not bullying; the person bullying has a goal to cause harm
  • Repetition: incidents of bullying happen to the same the person over and over by the same person or group

Notice the second part, the bully has a goal to cause harm. This is what makes bullying so insidious.Their goal is to actually harm the other person. I agree with both Steve and the government. It is important to teach our children to recognize that the person is intentionally trying to harm them. Intent has to be there for bullying to occur.

This opens up all sorts of questions. Why would someone do that? What makes someone want to hurt someone else? The answers to those questions are obviously deep and beyond the space I have here but over the next few days I want to delve into them a little more.

I googled a few different search terms in preparation for this series. I found some silly sites that simply seemed interesting in harvesting my email address and creating campaigns that would make us feel like we've done something when in reality we probably did not. I found some great sites with really valuable resources and I found a few that were somewhere in between.

One of the consistent themes that I saw was the idea that leaving a child out of a game is bullying. In fact, one webpage said this,

Being left out is a major form of bullying. Exclusion should be clearly against the rules at school. A child can practice persisting in asking to join a game. (emphasis mine) Online source.

What do you think? Is that a form of bullying? If your child doesn't like playing with my child, should your child be forced to play with mine just because they are in the same school?

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  1. Isn’t excluding certain people from our tribe what human society is all about at some level? It’s not like people don’t act like jerks anymore as soon as they graduate. The government should start a campaign to eradicate bad table manners. It would probably be just as successful as its attempt to get rid of bullying.

  2. No. And I don’t think bullying necessarily has to have an element of an intent to cause harm. When I was in High School myself and some other kids were rebuked by a professor because another student had had too much of our “joking around.” It took that rebuke to see that we had offended the other student in a serious way even though each of us in the group never intended harm. We were deaf to the requests of the other student because to us, it was fun.

  3. Christian,
    I think that what happened was wrong but I don’t think you bullied that person. If you had persisted once you realized what was going on, then I think it becomes bullying.

  4. If by manage, you mean always have to deal with, than, yes, I’d say that. I just don’t think you’ll ever create an environment where some kids don’t feel excluded in some way or another. I suppose it’s good for teachers to do what they can to prevent it, but how can you stop it completely?

  5. I believe from past experience that those who are “just joking around” can cause as much harm as those who “intend to cause harm”. Consider some who have been pushed too far such as Klebold and Harris (Columbine), Golden and Johnson (Jonesboro), or Cho (Virginia Tech). In all cases, they finally went over the edge after years of people making fun of them. I would bet that many of those kids were “just joking around”, but they did indeed cause harm.
    Exclusion CAN be bullying. For instance, why are they being excluded? In the Amish Community, exclusion is practiced in the form of “shunning”, to say someone is practicing sin. This is bullying … “Either you do it my way, or I’ll see to it that everyone in the community turns their backs to you.” In a form that can happen in school … “You need to wear the same clothes we do,” “You need to have the same hair cut we do,” etc. If you don’t do things their way, you are excluded. That is bullying.

  6. Hi Vince,
    Thanks for sharing from personal experience. I would have to agree that exclusion can be bullying. My point here was that I was a little nervous saying it is bullying every time.

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