Guest post by Paul Couglin, The Protectors.
Letter of Endorsement (Larry Taylor, Prestonwood Christian Academy)
Bullying's Raw Materials
- Arrogance: Along with unprecedented material wealth has unfortunately come the belief that the person with the most stuff not only wins--he or she is more important and valuable than others. For proof, consider how bullying's rise coincides more with our economic boom years than recent recession years.
- Hubris: When surveyed, American high school-aged children score the highest in personal confidence when compared to students from other countries. But they rank 18th in test scores and academic performance. We're Number One! in thinking we're number-one anyway. That's not healthy confidence--that's delusional hubris, which is excessive self-confidence, conceit and haughtiness. The sages of old warned against such thinking, and we would do well to open our ears to heed these old truths again.
- Jealousy & Envy: his tag team of discontent within a person's soul goes to the core of much bullying behavior. Unfortunately for us, who even talks about such negative and corrupting emotions? We better if we're serious about diminishing bullying. Jealousy relates more to loss, anger and resentment due to relationships, and is more likely to lead girls to lie, gossip and extort, than boys. Envy, resentment of another due to what they possess (such as status, clothing, boyfriend, girlfriend), compels people to commit abuse and related cruelty that they wouldn't commit otherwise. Narcissists often bully, and the narcissistic personality is prone toward envy. Worse, to secure a sense of superiority in the face of another's ability, bullying narcissists often use contempt as a means to diminish the other person.
- Disdain & Contempt: Not only do a growing number of students believe they are more valuable and important than others, more and more are looking down their noses at others, believing (though we don't come out and actually say so) that others are not worthy of consideration or respect. As history is quick to remind us, some of the worst human atrocities begin with an unjustified belief in superiority over others. This helps us understand why physically and mentally challenged children are often among the most bullied. Hitler and his henchmen had them murdered, and bullies are trying to take their life in other ways today.
- Immaturity: Failure to launch--the inability of a frightening number of youth to become independent adults--isn't funny anymore. It's a serious social crisis wherein people behave in petulant ways that 10-15 years ago would have caused shock and disbelief. "That's so high school," an expression that reminds us that people usually outgrow immature behavior such as bullying someone due to how they walk and talk, is now being used to describe behavior well into a person's 20s and even 30s. To be immature is to be inevitably self-centered, self-consumed, and self-interested--breeding cells for bullying. We're expected to move past these hurdles and into adulthood and pro-social behavior. This isn't happening like it used to, and we are paying a very large price with prolonged bullying being just one of them.
- Incivility: From most any reality TV show to just about any election above local dog catcher, our nation has become increasingly uncivil. We no longer agree to disagree agreeably to the degree we used to. Worse, crass behavior that would have caused shame decades ago is now exalted through mediums such as reality TV to the point that being a bully today can mean fame as well as fortune. Time for a national referendum on reality TV? Absolutely.
- Fallout from the Self-Esteem Movement: A bomb went off in our culture about 30 to 40 years ago, and we are still suffering from its mutating radiation. Most of us know someone whose parents reared them to think that they are really special. Now we get to suffer the consequences of their bullying behavior. Narcissism is the unintended love child of society's union with pop psychology's panacea to society's ills: low self-esteem. For years, we've been giving the patient the wrong medicine. Your average Bully needs more humility, not more self-importance. Instead of writing poems about how special their Inner Butterfly really is, our children need to meditate on the truth that everyone is special and important.
- Shame-Free Culture: What happened to good old-fashioned and healthy (yes, healthy) shame? This negative emotion can point us back to a True North, a right form of conduct. It can help us grow in maturity by making amends for anti-social and life-diminishing behavior. It's required to repair relationships due to inevitable tearing, much the way Vitamin E helps wounds heal.
- Loss of Evil: Bullying isn't merely unfortunate, inevitable, concerning and so on--in prolonged and intense cases it's actually evil, which is among the most antiquated beliefs and words today. Fundamentally, this unique expression of evil stems from what Dante described as "cupiditas." For Dante and other Middle Ages thinkers and philosophers, the sins that spring from that root are the most extreme, or "sins of the wolf." This spiritual condition is the worst of all, in that whatever exists outside oneself has worth only as it can be exploited or consumed by one's self. People aren't people to those ensnared by cupiditas. They are commodities, meant to be consumed, exploited and even ravaged the way a wolf treats its prey and the way Bullies treat Targets. Remind you of anyone you know? Remarkably, such people tend to think that they are very moral. I have known three people ensnared by cupiditas. All have stellar church attendance and do not swear. Hitler was opposed to drinking, swearing, premarital sex, and so on. By drifting from a fundamental understanding of evil, we have drifted from a fundamental strategy to oppose and if possible transform it, leaving us with various expressions of appeasement, which are historically anemic and dangerous. As a society, we are going into battle against bullying with the wrong weapons.
- Cowardice: Most Bystanders know and feel that bullying is wrong. They usually don't need an adult to tell them. But what they need help with is overcoming a common vice, or as the Bible lists it, a sin (Rev. 21:8): Cowardice. Our children, daily, are succumbing to this vice and sin when they have the power to act and help a Target, but they don't because they listened to fear more than doing the right thing afraid. The Greek word for manliness, andreia, is the same word that represents the virtue of the warrior--bravery and courage. When you think of what it means to be manly today, do these two words come to mind? Can we say with a straight face that courage is on the rise? More likely, it's convenient opposite has grown in popularity, which is tragic since male athletes often set the moral thermostat in schools.
Bullying will get better, but only in pockets of resistance. Let us help you. For proven solutions, go to: www.theprotectors.org