Bullying the Bully


"Stop Bullying" 

It's a popular cause right now. It's popular for good reason: suicide rates, especially among teenagers are increasing. This shouldn't be taken lightly. Bullying is absolutely tragic.

However, there's another side to the bullying coin.

One of the reasons that bullying is more difficult to handle these days is the increased connectedness and anonymity of the internet. It allows for hateful words without consequence, without seeing how you made a person feel. But it works both ways.

When someone does something deplorable they become the victims of a virtual mob. There is no way to escape it. There is no way to move and start over. It doesn't really matter if they are remorseful or not about what they did, the world comes at them with pitchforks.

I don't believe that the appropriate response to bullying is bullying the bully. People are very quick to cast their own judgements. They don't care if they're hurting someone because that person deserves it. Maybe I'm alone, but I think that's hypocrisy.

Have you heard about the radio DJs who prank called the hospital that Kate Middleton was being treated at? They were able to successfully get information from a nurse by pretending they were the the Queen and Prince Charles. After the story went public, the nurse that gave them the information killed herself. Obviously these two gentlemen were wrong to invade someones privacy and trick a nurse into giving out private information. They may even have triggered her suicide. But does that mean they deserve a mob attack? Do they deserve to be dragged out into the streets and burnt at the stake for their actions? Is that our definition of justice?

They have received a fire storm of criticism and hate over this situation. A fellow blogger brought up some good points in her post about this situation. Not only did the woman possibly suffer from a pre-existing condition like depression, but most of us have done something we regret (or don't) at some point in time and most of us have made fun of another person at one point or another. Whether to their face or not, just because it didn't end as tragically doesn't make us any better that these two men (who didn't do it on purpose). Some of the comments on her post indicated that these men deserve what they got and should get no sympathy.

But I find this disheartening. Can people not see that they are no better when they respond with cruelty?
I don't believe that there is ever an excuse for cruelty.

Edit: After posting this I stumbled upon this Huffington Post article about this topic and the Karen Klein incident. I think it's an even better example. The author mentions that the kids who bullied Ms. Klein (and even some misidentified kids) and their families started receiving threats by the thousands after this incident. People called parents work places and told their bosses to fire them because of their poor parenting. These seventh grade boys (who were wrong, but lets face it---are just dumb kids) started getting death threats. He tackles the concept of cognitive bias, or the tendency to jump to conclusions or on "the bandwagon." People who are trying to do good often end up being the thing they supposedly hate because for whatever reason they are blinded to their own mistakes and fall into herd mentality. "It is paradoxical that the outrage provoked by such herd mentality should be answered back with herd mentality."

Often people are misunderstood or remorseful about their actions and still cannot escape the judgement.  They will forever be known by their mistakes, judged by them. That can send you spiraling into a very deep depression and those people rarely receive any compassion.

But lets say they aren't remorseful. They're just a bad egg. They hurt someone on purpose and don't regret it. We're a people obsessed with getting even, with making sure "justice is served". And in some ways that can be good. Its okay to want justice for victims. But justice means rescue and love for victims. It can also mean preventing those who hurt them from hurting anyone else, but revenge is never justified.

That's my opinion on the matter. I don't think anything good has ever come from revenge. Even those who don't seem to deserve empathy are often the way they are because of hurts and injustice they experienced. And even if they are just plain ol' bad people (and I am as guilty as anyone of wanting arrogant unremorseful people to get what they deserve) deep down I still don't believe cruelty towards them is okay.

This belief is one of the tenants of my faith that perhaps is a bit countercultural. The crux of Christianity is suppose to be love (I realize there are lots of Christians who don't practice this, but I believe they're missing the point), love for the unlovable. The gospel is a story of love and sacrifice for people who didn't deserve it. The gospel is a story of redemption. The point of that story is that at the end of the day none of us deserve grace. We've all made mistakes, we've all done bad things. We didn't deserve redemption. It wasn't fair for an innocent man to die for our actions. But he did. And because he did, God asks us to show that level of love to others: family, friends, and enemies alike.

Maybe you don't believe in God or the Bible so you don't buy the gospel story or believe any of its implications. There's no way for me to defend my belief that we ought to love people who don't deserve love to you. I don't know how. But if you're a Christian, you should believe it too. And maybe even if you're not a Christian you should believe it because it appeals to common decency and respect for human life. The example and points above seem reasonable to me. They strike me as hypocritical even outside of my personal beliefs about empathy. In the end, all I know is that I want my life to be lived in a way that shows love and compassion to everyone I encounter. Period. They don't have to earn it.


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