Minute #593: Bigger, Not Better

Over the past few years, awareness of the widespread problem of bullying has increased, making the subject a primary theme in our schools. The picture most have is of one big, tough individual or a group of undisciplined ruffians taunting a smaller, weaker, well-behaved child. Sometimes the verbal abuse transcends vicious words and the resulting physical contact hurts the victim physically as well as emotionally.

Psychologists have studied this extreme behavior pattern and have theorized about a variety of factors that would prompt such mean behavior.

An otherwise healthy peer rivalry becomes harmful when the perpetrator is insecure about his/her own abilities and therefore acts out. As s/he is bigger than the victim, no retaliatory actions need be feared. Insecurity breeds bravado. A poor self-image demands remedial image-making — although it is false at its core.

Where most are mistaken is where one assumes the bully is a stranger or schoolmate, foreigner or neighbor — but never a member of the family. When a bigger sibling strikes out verbally or physically with intent to hurt, one hears justifying cries of “Boys will be boys!” or “That’s how kids are. We weren’t much different.” The justification of sibling bullying comes from a failure to recognize a “villain” in one’s own family.

We are all responsible for lifelong damage one brother or sister can cause a sibling. Most “bullying” is a family affair. Derogatory nicknames can develop in the home. Physical pain can take place in a child’s bedroom. Long-term emotional problems can have far-reaching effects even though everyone is closely related.

Parents should begin to recognize such behavior for what it is and find ways to eliminate this destructive, life-changing behavior from our people’s midst.

One More Second: Another Thought for the Day

Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz explained thus: When a mother travels with an infant from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv one cannot say the infant has gone from one place to another. As long as it’s with its mother there is no difference what city it is in…When one has constant awareness that he is always with the Almighty, the exact place where he is will not make a major difference. (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Growth Through Torah, p. 318)