Bullying: To solve a problem, we must first define it.

A few months ago, I said I was going to take an open stance against bullying. It’s become an increasingly large problem among kids, as well as adults, and the media attention is hopefully bringing about some positive change.

I always say that the best way to tackle a problem is first to define the problem. If you can’t tell the difference between bullying or people just being jerks, then you won’t know when to step in with an anti-bullying defense. This has been a hotly debated issue over the last few weeks because of the Miami Dolphins. For those of you who live in hermit shacks in the woods, the locker room culture has come back to haunt the football franchise in a very real way. Jonathan Martin has accused fellow teammate Richie Incognito of excessively insulting and bullying him, possibly under direction from the team to “toughen him up”. (Code Red, anyone?) Martin quit the team, checked himself in to a hospital due to mental distress, and then moved back home to his family. Incognito has been suspended pending investigation.

But here’s the thing- while Incognito did use harsh racist language and his voicemails went too far, Martin did the same, making joking threats about killing Incognito’s family. Now Incognito states that he did not think the threats were credible, and he wishes that his teammate had talked to him and let him know his language went too far. The rest of their team backs up Incognito’s views.

Here’s the million-dollar question- Is this bullying? Honestly, I don’t think so. It’s a case of two grown men acting like complete idiots, but it’s not bullying. If the team is to be believed, they were throwing insults back and forth for months without a complaint from either party. Incognito and Martin equally insulted each other, and while we don’t know what went on behind closed doors, it seems like it the case of two egos gone out of control rather than a grown-up version of losing your lunch money. It’s the locker room culture- should it change? Probably. Is it harassment? Yes. Is it wrong? Definitely. Is it bullying? No.

And that’s the problem. It seems that any case of jackassery these days is being branded as bullying. And that cheapens the word, dilutes the true cases of bullying, and does nothing to help those who are true victims of bullies. To me, bullying is anything that stops you from doing something you have the right to do- buy your lunch, frequent a shop, be yourself in public, etc. Bulling puts you in a closet and locks the door. Bullying can be harassment, but harassment and jackassery aren’t always bullying.

There’s one disturbing trend I’ve noticed lately- the tendency to cry bullying whenever someone is told they’re wrong. Being told you’re wrong isn’t being bullied. Sometimes the words may be harsh, maybe things can be said better, or maybe they can’t. But the inability for many in my generation to admit they are wrong is a disturbing trend. Too often, we become the generation who cried wolf- raised on a society who told us that were fantastic and amazing and can never do anything wrong, we cry foul every time we hear any type of criticism. It’s poisoned the minds of many, and as they begin to have children, it threatens the next. Being told you’re wrong is not bullying. Sometimes you’re just wrong. Sometimes, you just can’t handle the truth. It’s ok- it happens to everyone. We just have to have the strength and humility to recognize those moments.

We must be careful when applying the word bullying to all situations. We do not want to do more damage to those who are legitimately struggling with bullies by cheapening the word. we must stand up to real bullying and also to harassment. We deserve better. You deserve better. Be honest with yourself. And joint us in the fight against true bullies.

Check out these sites that are fighting against bullying:

Stomp Out Bullying

Lush USA- Erase Bullying

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