Bullying is a serious problem. There has been a popular campaign against bullying. There are “no bully zone” signs around declaring intolerance for bullying or those who do. It is probably safe to say that nobody likes to be bullied.
What is bullying?
To bully, according to Google, is to “use superior strength or influence to intimate (someone), usually to force him or her to do what one wants.”
The definition seems simple enough. One might picture that overgrown brute who stole their lunch money in elementary school or the popular clique that picking on less fashionable peers in middle school.
However, I have seen the word applied to almost anyone who expresses an unwanted opinion. For example, the woman who expressed concerns about a sign (a topic of a blog I recently posted) and was accused of bullying and intimidation for it. I have also heard a host on The View describe a subway preacher who offended Lea Selaria as a bully and laud her as a hero.
But is it really bullying to express an unpopular opinion?
It seems to me it is more bullying to shout a person down or to encourage others to gang up on a person for sharing their opinion. Sure, maybe someone does offend us. True, we may want to enjoy bacon without guilt and do not enjoy being called a sinner. Yet, does our being offended make it right to bully them into silence?
The label “bully” seems to be used to bully people who share unpopular opinions. Those labeled as bullies seem to be fair game to be shamed, humiliated and ostracized by the group. It would seem bullying is only wrong when enough people disagree with an opinion or behavior, but not when they do the same and worse to the accused bully.
Obviously, I do believe freedom of speech goes both ways and with that we are free to offend those who offend us. Still, if we are truly against bullying, isn’t it a little hypocritical to bully those we label as bullies?
Group shaming of individuals is bullying and wrong.
Remember Justine Sacco who became an international pariah as she was on a flight home? Is it okay that a woman is subject to global scorn, threatened with violence, fired from her job and her life turned upside down for a sarcastic tweet about white privilege? Is our being offended an excuse to attack and destroy another person?
I don’t think so.
I do not believe anything is solved by our answering every offense blow for blow. I believe the best way to overcome bullying is with love. It might take time to see results. But if something is wrong for someone else to do then do not make excuses for doing it for yourself…
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21 NIV)
There is time for confrontation. I would not hesitate to stand beside a person being attacked, belittled and intimidated. But don’t expect me to join a mob against one person. Mob demands rarely help the cause of justice.