Most of us don’t want to be bullies, yet we know they exist. How can we know if we are exhibiting bullying behaviour and change so we are fostering healthier behaviour, building better relationships and reducing harm to others?
Bullying is complex, and definitions are still debated around the world. But most agree that bullying is taking place when unwanted, repeated, and unreasonable behaviour of a physical, verbal or relational nature (for example, excluding someone or spreading rumours) occurs by one person or group toward another.
We know that bullying can trigger poor mental health and result in low self-confidence, stress, depression and burn-out.
A lot of focus and financial investment has been given to helping the victims of bullying, but psychologists suggest that increasing self-awareness about bullying behaviour is a key part of the harm-reduction puzzle.
Christians are not immune—we are human and broken—so it’s vital that in our endeavours to love others and become like Jesus we check our own behaviour. The truth is, we all have blind spots.
It’s easy to see bullying behaviour in someone else, but difficult to see it in ourselves. However, growing as disciples of Christ often means facing the ugly truth about ourselves and dealing with it head on. Change is never easy, but with others loving, praying and supporting us to grow, it is possible!
So, how can you know if you’re slipping into bullying behaviour? If you think some of the ‘red flags’ below apply to you, it’s time to pay closer attention to how you are treating others. Seeking honest feedback from a trusted friend, mentor or pastor is a great place to start.
You repeatedly upset someone around you.
If someone is frequently tearful, angry or complains about your behaviour toward them, then these reactions are not to be dismissed.
You have a lack of empathy towards someone.
This is not always easy to recognise in ourselves. Giving others permission to be honest about our empathy levels is vital to assessing behaviour and gaining insight into how our behaviour affects others.
You have a tendency towards aggression.
This may include openly ‘losing your cool’ with someone and resorting to shouting, threatening or humiliating someone in front of others. But it could also be questionable passive-aggressive comments such as, ‘Oh so you’re going to do it that way, that’s brave’. Facing up to your own passive-aggressive bullying and working to change it will take courage.
You thrive around insecure people.
No one wants to admit to this, but if you make yourself feel better or look better by evoking discomfort or insecurity in others, this is classic bullying behaviour. Persistently picking on someone, not backing them, or deliberately setting them up to fail can become ingrained behaviour that must be addressed.
You spread rumours about someone.
It may seem like harmless banter, but spreading rumours—true or false—can turn someone’s life upside down, costing them professionally, socially and even personally.
Misuse of power or position.
If your role—personally or professionally—enables you to influence the tone of someone else’s reality, and you make life difficult by blocking opportunities, limiting responsibilities or excluding them for collaborative projects or social events, this is bullying behaviour.
(c) 'War Cry' magazine, 27 July 2019 p 10. You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.