The title of this column is not 100-percent correct, in that I’m no longer a teenager, and of course, I am no longer a bully. But I once was, and the purpose of this editorial is to examine what goes on inside the head of a bully.
First of all, let me begin by stating that at no point during my bullying years did I ever understand or admit that I was a bully. I believed I was doing what comes naturally. Whether I was shoving a smaller and weaker student up against a row of lockers, flipping books out of an unsuspecting classmate’s hands, or assigning a new and unappealing name to a pupil who already had a proper and much more pleasant name, I believed I was just living out Darwin’s theory – survival of the fittest. My own biology experiment I could claim if confronted by a teacher.
The mind of a bully is not as complicated as mental health experts might have you believe. It’s a simple matter really. A bully enjoys, no, make that thrives on, the feeling of power that comes with manipulating the physical and mental condition of another human being. And a bully has many reasons for deciding to keep engaging in what I believe is an endorphin releasing activity. He might be trying to impress other bullies. It’s possible that the bully is seeking some free entertainment, a way to escape the monotony. But the one thing that I am sure keeps a bully from stopping his demeaning activity is his or her lack of empathy.
According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, empathy is described as: “Direct identification with, understanding of, and vicarious experience of another person's situation, feelings, and motives.” A bully has little concern with another person’s feelings. In fact, I would go so far as to say that most bullies see other human beings as nothing more than physical objects to be manipulated.
Only when I began to truly embrace Christianity did I begin to develop an understanding of how my actions were affecting others. If Jesus died for all of humanity, He loved all of humanity. And if the Creator of every thought, action, and object commands us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39 NIV), I think it is wise to do just that. Empathy is what Jesus taught while he walked upon the planet, and the world would be a much better place if it were put into practice worldwide. From the sixth-grader who enjoys slamming a locker shut the second a classmate gets done working the combination to a ruthless dictator of a rogue nation, the world could be a much better place if people would embrace Jesus’s teachings concerning empathy.
Now that my bullying days are behind me, I’ve made a new pledge. From this day forward, when I witness children bullying other children I plan on intervening by asking the child if he has ever heard of the word empathy. I won’t press the issue, and I won’t give him the definition. But hopefully just having the word swimming around in his head might cause a dictionary search, and that might possibly remind the bully that the greatest historical figure of all time wanted us to make that a living definition.
I enjoyed reading your piece and understand how a lack of empathy would stir boys on to bullying others. While in my Juvenile Delinquency class in college, I learned a great deal about a teenager's mind and how intricate their brain is as well as the rap they take so often for being a teenager.
I will remember to use the tip of asking the next bully I meet up with what empathy means to them. I am eager to hear their response.
Thanks for another great article!
No better than one who has experienced it to be able to set things right for other kids. I was a kid that was bullied! But I went to an all girls school, so it would be a different mindset for girl bullies.
Good on you for coming clean though! Renounce it all through Jesus.