Bullying has become such a hot topic in our society that it’s now a blanket term people use whenever someone is a jerk. We shouldn’t teach our children that every time someone mistreats them they have been bullied. Incorrectly using the term “bully” over victimizes people who aren’t being bullied and under represents what a bullying victim really goes through.
Bullying IS a problem, but we can’t solve it if we mislabel everything offensive as bullying. We should all understand that bullying is when someone repeatedly uses their power (social or physical) to degrade, harass, or humiliate someone else. A one-time remark can be offensive, hurtful, or embarrassing. Bullying is bigger than that even. The scars of being repeatedly victimized last much longer. Let’s teach kids (and adults) the difference so that we can effectively help them respond to both situations.
Recently, Jennifer Livingston, a WKBT TV anchor spoke up against a viewer who wrote a nasty letter calling her fat and an unsuitable role model for young girls.
The social media world is erupting with praise for how Jennifer stood up to her bully. I, too, love how Jennifer spoke back instead of tucking the effects of that mean letter deep inside her. But I feel obligated to chime in that Jennifer was not bullied. The guy who wrote her, who by the way is now being harassed by a public that hates bullies, acted – in my opinion – like a small-minded and mean-spirited loser. But those qualities live independently from the fact that Jennifer was not bullied by him.
I admire Jennifer’s bravery in standing up to someone who mistreated her. Let’s teach our kids that it’s ok to do that! At the same time that we must give them a very clear understanding of what it means to be bullied and what it means to deal with someone who is a jerk.