Bullies Are Victims, Too

What makes a person become a bully? The news is full of tragic stories about people being bullied. These horrific stories appall us and make us wonder what happens in a person’s life that causes him or her to be mean and cruel, to want to tease, belittle or even physically hurt another human being. Maybe if we understand what’s going on behind this aggression, we can understand how to respond to it.

Bullies do not simply decide one day that they are going to be mean. The traits that make them the bullies they become have probably been forming since early childhood. A child’s actions often reflect how he or she has been treated—by caregivers, older siblings, neighbors, relatives, or strangers. And often, the way a child is disciplined by parents can have a powerful impact on whether or not the child eventually engages in bullying behavior.

When a child is punished by an adult with anger, sarcasm or physical hurt, he feels little and helpless, victimized. Eventually, all the hitting, yelling and threatening make him angry. There is little relief from this kind of feeling when the child is small and the adult is so much bigger, so the fury may just lie there, fester and grow. In time, that anger turns into the desire to retaliate and hurt others. If a young child has continually experienced violent, negative, unloving treatment, he cannot feel valued or loved. If he has not been helped to figure out what went wrong, and taught that he did not deserve this kind of punishment, it becomes the only reality he knows. Eventually, he may identify with what was done to him and use the same behavior in order to feel bigger, in control, and to feel like “somebody who counts.”

That young child who was bullied wants to feel the power that makes others feel weak so that he can feel big and in charge. In a misguided way, this feeling of power leads him to a false sense of being looked up to, even admired — especially when there are onlookers who stand back and do nothing. Or even worse, become his followers.

Sometimes those who are witnessing an episode of bullying get caught up in the excitement it stimulates. They can even lose the sense-of-self which would ordinarily empathize with the child who is the bully’s victim. They become part of the “herd” which follows instead of using their better judgment. There may be elements of fear involved, too -– fear that the bully may turn on them if they defend the victim or criticize the aggressor.

And so with time, the victim becomes the aggressor and the cycle continues. How can you stop it?

By catching the bully unaware. By taking power back.

Instead of cowering, give the bully what he lacks. Compassion and understanding. It worked for me, once. When I understood that the boy who was bullying me was just as scared of someone else, I said something like, “I’m sorry someone has made you feel small. I hope you find the love you lack.” Instantly, the boy’s expression changed. His eyes got huge and he lowered his guard. Eventually, he walked away and never bothered me again.

To all the bullies out there, I invite you to share what’s going on inside. No one deserves to be torn down.

Bullies are victims, too.

  1. Ramonaa2938 says:

    I was labelled a cyberbully and bully at school by my principal and staff. now I may have charges being pressed against me, Im a 14 year old girl. I never meant to though, and no one ever hears my side of the story, thats the thing with the whole bullying thing, you cant just say ‘this persons bad, theyre a bully” I dont think any kid is really completely bad. Im kind of the misfit at my school, its a small school in a rougher neighbourhood, Im a bit punk/rocker I guess and so I dont really have any friends at school and kids started making fun of me. I was in gym class and I was feeling sick so I went to call my mom to pick me up, she didnt answer so i went back to class. There was a girl in class who made fun of me all the time saying I was crazy and mocking me and stuff and i told my principal and teacher and no one did anything, no matter how many times i got slapped or insulted they just didnt care. well that day she hit me in the head with a ball and said sit down, I said i wasnt playing and she said sit down again, i told her to shut up and she said you shut up whats wrong with you, she kept saying thaty and so I said whats wrong with you? She was smirking this whole time. I couldnt take this anymore happening everyday espicially since I was realy sick that day, I got mad and swung my arm at her and hit her. A group of kids near her started yelling stuff at me and throwing balls at my head, i told them to screw off. I got sent to the office. I told them everything, they said they’d deal with that girl. They dealt with her by calling her parents and saying exactly this “oh dont worry ______ did nothing at all.”. I got suspended a day. Everyone kept asing me about it, i posted a status on fb saying “suspended.” people commented on it why and asking what happened, i said “I hit her. It wasnt hard at all though, anyway she deserved it and I responded accordingly to her being a bitch.” An hour later I deleted it since I had calmed down and wasnt so angry about it anymore but it was too late, Someone screenshot it, sent it to her, told the school and that was it. I was considered a bully. that was only two days ago. Now I have a week to tell me mom, the person who thinks Im a sweet, bright, nice little girl, about what I said, before the school calls her. Im horrified. Everyone yelling at me that Im a bully, someone whos been defined to me since i was little as cruel, mean, nasty, horrible, ext. I dont know what to do. I wish I could go back in time. I feel like I have no options, Id rather anything then my parents think of me as that, to see that side of me. I just wanna runaway cause honestly, at this point id do ANYTHING to not have to tell my parents that. I wasnt ever abused, but I feel victimmized a bit myself. I may even be in the paper tomorrow they said for “student has a violent outburst the continues relentless bullying online.” People never talk about the bully, about how one newspaper article can ruin them too, about how fast things spread, I got fired from my job already even because they heard about it. I dont know what to do, I already have severe depression and anxiety and have attempted suicide before. The girl I bullied is fine, she doesnt even care. I wish i had a second chance.

    • I read your story with pain in my heart. As you know, “bullies” are so often normal people like you and me who have been pushed too far and feel the need to strike back. I was sorry to read that you took the right steps by telling your principal and teacher about what was happening and that they did not take the necessary steps to help you. I know you don’t want to tell your parents what happened, but as a mother myself I can tell you that I would rather my daughter come to me, with whatever situation, than for her to keep it inside because she is afraid to tell me. Your parents may yell at you, discipline you, but they will never stop loving you. Maybe if you find it difficult to confront them in person you can give them something in writing, exactly like what you did here. That will keep you out of the line of fire, at least initially. They will probably be mad, but deep down, they want the best for you. And please be careful with Facebook and other social media outlets. Like you experienced, bad news and gossip can spread like wildfire. Next time you feel angry or sad, write your emotions down in a journal rather than online. You’re young. You have your whole life ahead of you. Don’t blow it all for some ignorant girl who thinks she’s the queen of the school. High School will someday be over and the girl who is making your life miserable will than vanish from your life. Don’t despair. Take positive steps to make things better, the first of which is to talk to Mom and Dad. I wish you all the best.

      • Alexis says:

        I read your story and to be honest I think you did nothing wrong I would have probably responded the same way. Secondly I think that girl and those other students who made fun of you are the bullies. You just defended yourself. You maybe could have handled it a bit better but you still did nothing wrong.

  2. On the article: It’s RELIEVING to me that someone seems to see that a bully is, same as his/her victim, a victim. And…I want to add that, sometimes, people, who are seen as bullies, hadn’t any intention to hurt anyone, and it was just a misunderstanding. The sad part is when, regardless of you having an intention to hurt or not, when you’re seen as a bully, you’re usually treated like a total evil: blamed, beaten, deprived of your fave toys, or just ignored intentionally. Many people seem to think that simply ignoring someone is not cruel, but I don’t agree. By my view, the worst bullying is sometimes made even by the anti-bullying organizations: to just ignore and/or block someone who seems like “just a troll”. I think that such organizations aren’t very ready yet to stop the bullying, as they don’t seem to realize that maybe they’re rude in something too and that a bully (either just a perceived one or a real one) just needs to be heard too… They seem to think that they know everything, so they’re quick to just write you off either like “just a troll” or like “just a mentally sick idiot”… For example, when they think that their text is clear, and you’re asking them questions for to understand what they meant…

  3. So-called anti-bullying organizations are bullies themselves. So I don’t trust anyone much. Maybe someone will think that I just lie, but it’s because they don’t know how I feel. No, I don’t blame anyone for anything. We all maybe are unknowingly bullies sometimes. But yes, I feel very hurt in this world.

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