Where Do Bullies Come From?

image from "Back to the Future" courtesy thewritingnut.comMost of the bullying I encountered as a child was just verbal abuse.  Did I say “just”?  Verbal is bad enough.  I wasn’t a constant target the way some kids were, but I got my share of ridicule.  The “freaks” who called me “Virgin Mary” in high school bothered me less than the popular girls who made fun of my clothes, my hair, my face….I have this secret wish that at high school reunions those who picked on others in school would explain why they did what they did.  You know, it was all a long time ago, I have no hard feelings at this point.  Just help me understand what drives that kind of behavior.  Why, day after day, would you choose to be cruel?

Of course, if I think about it long enough I remember that I did a little bullying myself.  Very little, honestly, because my identity was wrapped up in being a “good girl”, and I had a highly developed sense of righteous indignation.  I even served a brief stint as a body guard for a girl who was being bullied.  Which is funny, because I weighed maybe 100 lbs. that year and had the muscle tone of Olive Oyl.  But I did, on occasion, make fun of others.  My friends and I used to make up little songs about a boy in our youth group who was…..unusual.  But he had such a strong sense of who he was that our ridicule just seemed to bounce right off of him.  He’d just laugh loudly and keep on being himself.  Once, at a weekend church retreat, we gave “Rob” Ex-lax chocolate chip cookies.  Yeah, that old gag.  He punished us for the rest of the weekend by describing his trips to the bathroom in detail, also loudly.  I’d say he made the best of a bad situation.

image from "Mean Girls" courtesy watercoolerthe.blogspot.comMy children who are in public school (Striker and B.Lake) deal with bullying all. the. time.  Striker (age 15) is beautiful and athletic – the very things I wasn’t at her age – and she still gets abuse.  The names girls call each other these days!  I’m still not used to it.  Last week she told me that people at school were calling her the “W”-word.  Turns out she didn’t mean “witch”.

It’s no better for B.Lake, who is in 6th grade.  He’s had lots of colorful words and phrases directed at him, too.  Additionally, he gets made fun of because he’s in special ed. and because he’s adopted.  I try to get him to ignore most of it, and I call the school when he reports something that I find especially repugnant.

A few weeks ago I came home to to find two boys in our yard, and B.Lake cowering along the side of the house.  As soon as I pulled up the boys took off, so I guessed – correctly – that they were not there for a play date.  As soon as I asked B.Lake who they were he burst into tears.  The two boys were slapping him, telling him to go back to his “black mom”, that sort of thing.

image from "A Christmas Story" courtesy winstonwolfe.tumblr.comI am forever telling my children to try to take the high road.  “Think how miserable this person must be inside, to be such a jerk,” I’ve said.  Of course, I don’t know that this actually true.  Maybe some bullies are happy as larks, enjoying the pain they’re causing others.  “Jesus said to love your enemies, and pray for them,” I say to my suffering children, when what I really want, deep down, is to track down some little monsters and knock the snot out of them.

Mr. Right and I were both gone last night, and Baph was home with the younger kids.  B.Lake had permission to go skateboarding around the neighborhood with a friend.  Remember the two boys from our yard?  One of them is a foul-mouthed little creep who is a constant torment to B.Lake at school.  Listen, B.Lake can be a pain:  I know that better than anyone.  But he’s not malicious and he’s not a fighter.  Last night the little creep’s father came out of his house and down the street to attack B.Lake and his friend.  I don’t use the word attack lightly.  The police were called.  It turns out that B.Lake’s friend is a stand-up guy, a 14 year old who interposed himself between a grown man and my son to keep B.Lake from being hurt.  I am truly grateful to him.

I’ll spare you all the details, except to say that no one was physically injured.  I don’t understand why some kids bully, but I think I understand why the little creep bullies:  his father is a bully.  This morning I told B.Lake (who, by the way, is terrified to be out of the house now) that I almost feel sorry for the little creep.  He’s probably been on the receiving end of some of that bullying.  B.Lake didn’t see my point.  He’s not ready to feel compassion in this situation yet, and I don’t blame him.

To me, as a parent, the only thing worse than my child being bullied is the possibility of my child being a bully.  I just pray that the garbage my children put up with will not snuff out the essential kindness in them.  God knows, the world needs more kind people.


About Sharon Autenrieth

Wife, mom to 5, homeschooler, Christian Education Director, idealist, malcontent, follower of Jesus.
This entry was posted in parenting and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Where Do Bullies Come From?

  1. Jeff Strong says:

    At the ripe old age of 14 my waist seem to almost matched my height. That and the offer from Shell and Standard Oil to establish wells on my forehead and back made a prime target for the Bullies. I have often wondered why the mouth piece for the bullies was always a little guy. My tormentor was a guy named Steve and he would trip me or knock my books from my hand or attack from the back. I am half Irish and the other half is Scot. Neither are known for diplomacy or long tempers. One day Steve pushed the wrong button and I was just fast enough to catch him at the waste and then I introduced him to a couple of walls, a solid wooden door and a wall locker and then I stuffed him into a small garbage can. Then two of his protectors approached but there was this two by four just waiting for me and I laid them out in short order along with this teacher who kind of got in the way. I was suspended for 3 weeks but upon my return my tormentors gave me wide birth. So why do bullies have power over us is more to the point of the question and the answer is because we let them. There is this passage in the second book of Timothy first chapter 7 th verse that says :”God did not give us a spirit of fear; but one of Power and Love and a sound Mind. So we need to exercise the power in a loving way to maintain a sound mind. AND Sometimes!, that loving way comes in the shape of a 2×4.


    • Renee Davies says:

      I enjoyed reading this. It reminds me of the story of a retired boxer turned pastor who moved into a small parish. He found that a certain man in town found great pleasure taunting him with words like “Hey pastor, you a whimp now? C’mon, fight with me.” The pastor would walk past him, ignoring the taunts. But as time progressed, the man grew even more aggressive, and on this particular day, confronted the pastor. Not wanting to take part in any of this, the pastor asked the man to stop his taunts. But the man wouldn’t listen. In fact, he slugged the pastor on the right cheek. The pastor tried to walk away, but the man again, slugged him on the left cheek. When the man finally lifted his arm to strike the pastor again, he struck him so hard over the head, the man fell unconscious. To this, the watching crowd was stunned. Someone shouted, “Pastor, didn’t God tell you to turn the other cheek?” The pastor replied, “Yes He did, and I turned the other cheek. But God didn’t tell me what to do after that.”


  2. Aaron says:

    Its funny, being the odd teenager I was, b.lake’s situation was always one I worried about youngest brother being caught in. I even had several “contingency plans” for if I came upon such an event, which though never put to use, was probably good, because if I wasn’t faster than them, I certainly wasn’t going to win on strength, especially back then.


  3. Renee Davies says:

    I enjoyed reading this post. At the core bullying is insecurity. Stepping on others helps elevate bullies from a base position, if only for a moment.


    • And as someone pointed out to me….we all tend to make light of the bullying that we do – as I did in this post. What other people do is cruel. What I do is just harmless fun. Self-delusion: one of my many gifts.


      • Renee Davies says:

        Honestly though, we are all capable of bullying and to say otherwise would make us liars. But some kids really get their whole identity from it and some go on to make careers out of it.


  4. Italia says:

    I loved reading this post.
    Children are what they are it is because of the up bringing of their children. They will grow and learn to bully others if they saw and heard from their own parents that they were bullying and shouting each other. Children tend to imitate what they saw and heard from the people that surrounds them. If you plant love to your children then absolutely the seed that will grow also be good.


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