Bullying Awareness Prevention Month: How to Stick Up for What's Right

If you’re wondering what month is National Bullying Prevention Month, you’re in the right place. It’s October! And we’re taking the time this week to discuss the problem with bullying and how you can go about sticking up for what’s right.

Bullying Awareness Prevention Month: What to Know About Bullying

What Does Bullying Look Like?

Bullying and harassment can show up in a lot of ways. Do any of these sound familiar to you?

  • Verbal, Physical, or Emotional Abuse
  • Mockery
  • Public Humiliation
  • Isolating and Abandoning Others
  • Damaging Others’ Property or Belongings
  • Online Harassment

No matter which kind of bullying a victim experiences, the impact of bullying can be devastating. Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm, and suicide are only a short list of the potential mental health repercussions for a victim of bullying. It’s also highly likely that the bully is also struggling with similar mental health concerns. Bullying is so pervasive that it’s highly likely you’ll be on the receiving end of some of the above bullying behaviors at some point in your life. The question now is, what are you supposed to do about it?

Iconic Bullies and How They Were “Defeated”

As soon as you or someone you know has been a victim of bullying, it’s natural to immediately want to confront them or fight back. “Give them a taste of their own medicine” is a common phrase used when it comes to responding to bullies. While it’s perfectly rational to want justice, it’s important to consider how you go about this. While it may seem justified and satisfying to fire back at bullies, is that really justice?

Let’s look at some iconic fictional bullies, where they fall on the above list, and how their stories end.

BullyBullying StyleResult
Regina George, Mean Girls• Verbal and Emotional Abuse• Mockery• Public Humiliation• Isolating and Abandoning OthersHer victims react with: • Physical abuse• Mockery• Public Humiliation• Damaging Others’ Property or Belongings
Sid, Toy Story• Verbal, Physical, and Emotional Abuse• Mockery• Public Humiliation• Isolating and Abandoning Others• Damaging Others’ Property or BelongingsHis victims react with:
• Emotional Abuse• Public Humiliation• Damaging Others’ Property or Belongings
Miss Trunchbull, Matilda• Verbal, Physical, and Emotional Abuse• Mockery• Public HumiliationHer victims react with:• Emotional Abuse• Mockery• Public Humiliation• Damaging Others’ Property or Belongings
Gaston, Beauty & the Beast• Mockery• Public Humiliation• Isolating and Abandoning Others• Damaging Others’ Property or BelongingsHe incites a riot (a mob of bullies) who commit:
• Physical Abuse• Damaging Others’ Property or Belongings
Joffrey Baratheon, Game of ThronesEverything but online harassment…His victims’ response:
Physical abuse and public humiliation, in the form of a plot against his life. They successfully poison a child at a feast.

If you cheered or felt happy as these heavy-hitters got what was coming to them on screen, that’s understandable. They were really mean! Don’t forget that third column, though. What’s saddest about each of these examples is that their bullying inspired more bullying behaviors in others, so while they may have been stopped, they left more bullies behind than before.

How to Stand Up to Bullying Without Bullying

This is not to say that we shouldn’t stand up to our bullies at all! Sometimes, healthy confrontation is necessary! Just be careful that when you stick up for what’s right, you don’t use the same bullying tactics and cause further harm, as we see in some of the above examples. If you’re facing a bully in your life right now, keep the following ideas at the forefront of your mind too:

  • Communicate boundaries directly. If you don’t like the way you’re being treated, say something. You can even say something like, “I don’t appreciate it when you make jokes about me in the hallway. It’s bullying behavior.” Or if you witness a friend acting like a bully– “Why are you acting like this? It’s not right.” For some bullies, that may be all the confrontation they can stand. If you feel unsafe confronting your bully, don’t. Consider the rest of the list. 
  • Be proactive, not reactive. If you know that your bully always hangs out by one entrance at school, choose a different entrance. If you know they are going to start sending you mean messages as soon as you open your TikTok, block them. This way, you’re taking control by giving them less access to you, and you’re less likely to do something reactive, like shove them back or send equally mean messages.
  • Document & report. Anytime you feel you’re experiencing bullying behavior, make a note of it. With that documentation you now have a record that shows their pattern of behavior, should you decide to report the bully. You don’t have to do this alone. By telling a trusted adult or authority figure, the chances are higher for you (and the bully) to get much needed support.
  • Prioritize your safety. If your bully messages you anything about self-harm, suicide, or threats of violence, report them immediately and avoid contact. If your bully has physically assaulted you, be that a punch in the gut or a swirly, report them immediately and avoid contact. If you have reason to believe that your bully may become violent if confronted, do not proceed alone. Now is the time to bring in the professionals.
  • Call for backup. Teachers, school staff, or even the police are capable of helping you put a stop to your bully. A therapist or counselor can also support you as you process the pain of being bullied and confronting your bully. If you don’t know where to start looking for help with your situation, chat with a Hope Coach today, and we’ll help you.

In the Bible, Jesus stands up to bullies more than once. He called out the bullying of tax collectors–men who demanded way more money than people could afford, just to line their own pockets. On top of that, this corruption was so common that tax collectors became a hated group of people, even if they were honest in their work. One form of bullying had led to another. Do you know what Jesus did? One day, as people gathered to watch Jesus pass through Jericho, He walked right up to a tax collector named Zaccheus and basically invited Himself to dinner at the guy’s home. At the same time as He directly addressed the wrongs of the tax collectors, he also showed everyone that bullying as a response to being bullied isn’t the way.

Moving Forward With Hope and Compassion

From high school, to Netflix, to politics, it seems that the story of an underdog succeeding despite mistreatment will always be a fan favorite. Look at the way so many have rallied behind Meghan Markle, or the ongoing widespread support of Ukraine defending itself against Russia. Certainly it might feel cathartic to see a bully go down, whether that means toppling a monarchy or throwing mashed potatoes across the cafeteria. But wouldn’t it be even more satisfying to see bullies grow? To see them become accountable for their actions and take real steps toward a more healthy way of relating to others? This outcome is not unheard of! In fact, if you think about it, there’s one thing that can turn hated film/TV bullies into some of the most beloved characters in popular culture: a redemption arc.

It’s hard to deny that Steve Harrington is the number one reason many fans return for every season of Stranger Things. Once a bully, he’s now a brave and passionate leader who fights for his friends to feel safe. Alexis Rose on Schitt’s Creek, goes from dismissive and entitled party girl to conscientious and driven daughter, friend, and business owner. At the top of this list? Perhaps no bully from pop culture has a more satisfying redemption arc than Prince Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender. His story has been so compelling to fans that the show continues to rise in popularity, even though it came out way back in 2005. People even name their pets Zuko!

Why are these characters so beloved? Because they offer us the reminder that, if we can all learn to become more open, honest, and emotionally healthy then there’s a future in which people change, grow, apologize, forgive, etc. The binary dynamic of the bully vs. the bullied doesn’t necessarily have to continue forever and ever. Jesus’ entire message is about how we can all have an incredible redemption arc. If you follow His teachings, you’ll find them filled with hope for a future where everyone is united. By the way, Zaccheus? He ended up returning all the money he unfairly taxed and more. If you’d like to learn more about Jesus’ life and message, or if you need to chat with someone about a potential bullying situation, please reach out to TheHopeLine today. You’re never in this alone!

-Cara Beth

Victims of bullying, and the bullies themselves, are at a higher risk of depression. Learn how depression is linked to bullying.

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