Bullying can be defined as the following: the unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. It can imply verbal (teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, etc.), social (leaving someone out on purpose, spreading rumors), and or physical bullying (hitting, kicking, tripping).
On a basic level, a bully is a person who reacts to the experience of insecurity and fragility, above all his own, but also to that of others, in an aggressive manner.
Fragility breeds insecurity, insecurity fear, and fear breeds… well a lot of things, but above all violence.
Those who undergo bullying, as we all do to a certain degree –especially those who bully–, are repeatedly submitted to a sort of brainwashing exercise: the deepest truth of themselves is ignored and trampled upon by the constant tyranny of lies and heartless exaggerations. I mention these exaggerations because it is important to recognize that many times there is truth in what is said. Such and such person is perhaps chubby, ugly (exteriorly according to present day paradigms), less intelligent, etc. Nevertheless this truth is ripped from the context of the whole the person and presented as his or her defining factor. What should be a harmless truth becomes a very painful one that induces the victim to believe that the source of their suffering is how they are, or who they are, and are not able to realize that the source is, in reality, the weakness of the aggressor. There is, perhaps, no greater injustice than that of depriving another of the beautiful experience of being him or herself.
The cause, at its root, is blindness. We no longer see or care to see the person who stands before us. This is, however, always a result of our incapacity to see who we ourselves really are. This is because we look without love. We have forgotten what it means to be looked upon with love.
On the other hand, it is important not to exaggerate the wrong’s caused by bullying. Each person’s case is particular, and some have certainly undergone dramatic experiences; still, we must be wary of allowing these experiences to define us, to explain all of our current difficulties, to justify our faults, or above all, to live our life as a certified “victim”. To do so would be to undermine any hopes of reconciliation and growth which such cross-like opportunities offer for us in God’s mysterious Plan.
A Deeper Look
In reflecting once on the experience of Adam and Eve in the garden, I wondered if they had any use for a mirror. Personally, I think not. I believe that in the beginning their only “mirror” were the eyes of the Other. Adam and Eve discovered their reflection, above all, in the eyes of God and in the eyes of one another. That is, one’s reflection was always seen in the mirror of a gaze of love. While having a certain value, every accidental aspect of the person can only be understood and appreciated in the context of an intense and personal love for the whole person.
Unfortunately, with Original Sin, came the separation of seeing and loving. Thus, today, it is very difficult for us to see the other for who he or she is; and we have all undergone in some way the experience of being insulted, ignored, reduced, despised by a look, a word, or worse.
Reconciling such a situation is no easy task. I think the first task would be that of reconquering the truth of who we are. As the video says, we must declare: “they were wrong”. In addition, given the fact that many times the greatest bully in our lives is ourselves, when looking at a mirror and seeing everything but who we truly are, I would also add: “I was wrong”.
There is only one person that holds the key to unlocking the treasure of who we are: Jesus Christ. Only He is able to embrace the mystery of our identity, to appreciate it in its fullness, and to reveal to us how to live accordingly. There is no greater mirror than the gaze of Christ! There is no greater reflection of our value than His Cross!
Questions for dialogue:
What experiences of bullying have you had in your life? What things were said, done? How did it make you feel? How did it affect your self-image? How did it affect how you saw others? How does it affect you today?
After reflecting and answering these questions, take some time to review some verses in the Bible. Try to perceive how Christ saw others. How do you think Christ defines beauty, goodness, and worthiness? How do such definitions differ from the ones that you currently have?