Webster’s defines a bully as “a person who hurts, frightens, or tyrannizes over those who are smaller or weaker.” The Collins Dictionary says bullying is “intimidation of weaker people.”
As a former NFL player, I was really disturbed when the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal broke last year, particularly with early attempts to write it off as “good-natured camaraderie,” which it clearly was not.
For eight years in the 1970s, I played for the Steelers, 49ers and Falcons, and there was plenty of camaraderie in the locker rooms of my day. What was described in the NFL investigation’s 144-page report on the alleged harassment and bullying of Jonathan Martin was clearly not the friendly banter we used to exchange.
And from all accounts, bullying in America, particularly of youth, has become a serious problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
“28% of U.S. students in grades 6–12 experienced bullying.
20% of U.S. students in grades 9–12 experienced bullying.
Surveys show that approximately 30% of young people admit to bullying others.
70.6% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools.
70.4% of school staff have seen bullying; 62% witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month and 41% witness bullying once a week or more.”
I think an understanding of the dynamics of bullying is important in dealing with the subject. A passage in the book Self Analysis by Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard can be applied directly to bullying.
“Aberrated1 individuals use two distinct and very aberrated methods of controlling others. The first consists of forcing the other person to do exactly what is desired with the mechanism of recrimination and denial of friendship or support unless instant compliance takes place. In other words, “You do exactly what I say or I am no ally of yours.” This is outright domination. Additionally, it seeks by anger and outright criticism, accusations and other mechanisms to pound another individual into submission by making him less.
“The second method might be called domination by nullification. This is covert and quite often the person upon whom it is exerted remains unsuspecting beyond the fact that he knows he is very unhappy. This is the coward’s method of domination. The person using it feels that he is less than the individual upon whom he is using it and has not the honesty or fortitude to admit the fact to himself.”
In the popular moral code The Way to Happiness, Mr. Hubbard further explains this phenomenon:
“Sometimes others seek to crush one down, to make nothing out of one’s hopes and dreams, one’s future and oneself.
“By ridicule and many other means, another who is evil-intentioned toward one can try to bring about one’s decline.”
He then describes the bully’s true motivation:
“What, exactly, are such people trying to do to one? They are trying to reduce one downward.
“They must conceive that one is dangerous to them in some way: that if one got up in the world, one could be a menace to them. So, in various ways, such seek to depress one’s talents and capabilities.
“Some madmen even have a general plan that goes like this: ‘If A becomes more successful, A could be a menace to me; therefore I must do all I can to make A less successful.’ It never seems to occur to such that their actions might make an enemy out of A even though he was no enemy before.”
This was clearly the case in what played out with the Dolphins last year. His bullying of Jonathan Martin resulted in Richie Incognito’s suspension from the team and earned him a reputation that likely will stick to him for a long time to come.
There are constructive actions you can take when you observe bullying of any kind.
The CDC statistic I found the most revealing was this:
When bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time.
In other words, it works to stand up for others.
In the book Introduction to Scientology Ethics, Mr. Hubbard describes the mechanism:
“In a group where members have some concept of controlling their environment and their fellows, you don’t have loafers or out-ethics cats. Because the rest of the group, on an individual basis, just won’t tolerate it.
“Those who would have a tendency to wreak havoc or loaf don’t dare. And the group becomes easy to live with and work with.
“It is not whether the group individuals should be preselected or carefully made ethical by some process or inspired leadership or a separate police force. It is whether the group members themselves exert any control on each other.”
Sure, it takes courage to stand up to a bully. After all, if you speak up, won’t he end up targeting you? Maybe. But just standing by and letting someone be intimidated or worse is tacit agreement with the bully’s actions. You will have to live with the knowledge that you contributed to the harm he caused.
So many times, when you help someone trace back where things started going downhill for him, you find it began with his failing to act when he knew he should have.
As for the victims of bullying—even without the support of those who see what is going on—is there anything they can do?
Yes there is. It is given in The Way to Happiness:
“The real handling of such a situation and such people, the real way to defeat them is to flourish and prosper.
“Oh, yes, it is true that such people, seeing one improve his lot, can become frantic and attack all the harder. The thing to do is handle them if one must but don’t give up flourishing and prospering, for that is what such people want you to do.&rdquo
“If you flourish and prosper more and more, such people go into apathy about it: they can give it up completely.
“If one’s aims in life are worthwhile, if one carries them out with some attention to the precepts in this book, if one flourishes and prospers, one certainly will wind up the victor.”
1 Aberrated: affected by aberration. Aberrated conduct would be wrong conduct, or conduct not supported by reason. Aberration is a departure from rational thought or behavior; not sane.
2 Out ethics: An action or situation in which an individual is involved, or something the individual does, which is contrary to the ideals, best interests and survival of his dynamics. Dynamics: from the Greek dunamikos, powerful. Hence, motivating or energizing force (of existence or life).
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