When it comes to bullies - what works better, forgiveness or revenge?

Is it better to kill your bullies with kindness (or ignore them) or give them a taste of their own medicine? What works better?

Also, do you think most child bullies are budding psychopaths or simply confused and immature? Should they be treated like criminals or helped?

I’d be interested in hearing personal anecdotes as well as evidence.

The legal system and other social institutions should be involved.

If someone spray-paints something nasty on your garage door, neither forgiveness nor revenge are appropriate responses.

I doubt being nice to them would make any difference

Bullies tend to look for soft targets. Stop being soft, you’ll be a less inviting target.

I was a very awkward lad in school. But I could and would fight. In 6th grade my family moved into the school system that I would spend the rest of my K-12 years at. I must have been in 3 or 4 fist fights the first semester. I was left alone all the way through graduation in high school.

I can’t prove it, but my guess is the population of bullies tends to mirror the general population. Most are just kids who are going along with the crowd and/or indulging in the instinct towards cruelty we all have. Some are broken and sadistic people.

Bullying is all about power over another person and forgiveness will not work in general at least as a direct strategy. You have to find a way to counter their threat. That could be physical, legal, public embarrassment or something else that truly hurts them. The important thing is to establish power over them in some way. If you want to ‘forgive’ them once you have that power, that is just a passive aggressive signal of dominance over them but you have to have the power first. Being a polite victim is never a good strategy.

I once worked with someone who admitted to being a childhood bully. He had a very difficult home life as a child and I think being a bully was an attempt to exert some control in his life. He was extremely remorseful about his actions.

Not much advice I’m afraid but my experience…I have a daughter who was bullied by a few older boys when she was in grade 6 and 7 and all it took was for her 11 year old sense of fairness in reporting one of them for cutting in the lunch line to set off two years of harassment…thankfully it was never physical. The fact that she didn’t take anything they dished out lying down may have encouraged them to continue just to see what kind of reaction they’d get. We did try a week or two of completely ignoring them…not giving them the reaction they were looking for and that sort of worked. Eventually a new crop of grade 6’s entered the school and the boys moved on.

The response from the school’s guy in charge of pastoral care was that boys that age are insane and if she felt the need to pop one of them in the nose, he would look the other way. The school spent a lot of time forgiving boys for their behaviour “safe in the knowledge” that they were just wired differently and would outgro it. While it may be true, that kind of attitude seems like a cop out to me. At the same time tho, I would never want my kid to back down and I probably would have supported a right hook to the nose as well.

That is terrible advice. What makes people think bullies run away crying if someone punches them? Movies? In real life, your daughter could get seriously injured if she instigated a physical fight with two teenagers now armed with “she hit me first” as an excuse.

Punching someone who can beat you up is generally a poor plan.

I think it’s damn near impossible to have any sort of general trend. “The Bully” is the modern version of “The Drug Dealer”–this shadowy, inscrutable, malicious figure who is responsible for a Social Ill. DARE taught us to beware the Drug Dealer, and how to respond to him, but none of us ever met him–we just made friends who smoked pot. In the same way, we now talk about “bullies” like they are a discrete set of kids, somehow different and readily identifiable and with a set of shared motives and reactions. A huge percentage of kids are capable of being bullies under different circumstances, for a lot of different reasons, and a lot of those same kids would not be/are not bullies under different circumstances.

There just aren’t any universal strategies here. Bullying behavior is a big deal and needs to be dealt with, but you’ve got to evaluate each situation differently.

The satisfaction would very definately be short-lived.

We have a class of bullies today that I have nothing to relate to when I was growing up. Groups of girls will gang up on one girl and can be incredibly cruel. They seem to lack basic empathy towards others. I think schools should take this seriously and if neccessary law enforcement. In my generation we handled bullies quickly and efficiently. Most of us were taught to stand up to them. If it took 3 guys then get 3 guys together. Bullies did not stay bullies very long. We were also taught to stand up for those who were weak or otherwise unable to defend themselves. I have to confess that I taught my own son to mind his own business which I now regret.

 My daughter didn't care how big a bully was, first offense and she was on it. My son was just well liked and popular so it never affected him directly.

I was bullied in junior high school. Then I gained some mass and BECAME a bully. I wasn’t a psychopath.

I was a veeerrrry soft target in school and I couldn’t (and nobody helped out either) get out of it. I was abused because I was so soft. I really don’t blame the bullies that much, it just a pecking order and I was at the bottom. I actually point more of the blame at teachers, administrators, parents, older siblings who really could have helped this situation. Those were the people who really didn’t care and those are the people who I point the finger at.

That said, right now it’s water under the bridge. No point in stressing over something that happened decades ago. Lessons learned and habits formed still affect my life but done is done. So forgiveness works better from this distance. I don’t think revenge would have been too effective in the moment and would be rather pointless now. Forgiveness is really the only choice that won’t destroy you.

Often even teachers join in the bullying and encourage the behavior. They like to feel like they are part of the superior in-crowd and are pleased to see “weak” children put in their place. Unfortunately, the profession attracts some very immature people whose social development got stuck in junior high.

Depends on the bully. Is the bully doing it because they are insecure and trying to hide their vulnerability, are they doing it because they are incapable of empathy, etc?

It the first, I’d say kindness would work better. If the second, revenge would work better. If you tried to be kind or seek revenge on the wrong one it would probably just make things worse. The insecure bully will feel persecuted and become meaner if you seek revenge, and the unempathetic bully will mistake kindness for weakness.

I think kids should be taught how to play the dozens as early as the kindergarten. Then by the time they get to the third grade, they will be ready for instruction in How to Get All Up in Somebody’s Face.

Also, in addition to learning “stop, drop, and roll”, kids should be taught “How Not to Give a Fuck.”

Maybe there would be fewer bullies and bullying victims if schools empowered kids with verbal judo and defensive intimidation techniques.

Does revenge for anything ever work? If my neighbor runs over my mailbox, do I accomplish anything by running over his mailbox? What if I amp it up and stomp thru his petunia patch? Will that incite him to chop up my roses??



As for bullying, until we stop treating it as a phase that kids go thru, until we address its causes and deal with it appropriately, it will continue. Heck, even then, I expect there will always be those who have to make themselves feel stronger/better/superior by belittling or abusing others. Face it, some people are just that way.

This is me, exactly. I was a bully when I was a kid. Sort of a “mean girl” I guess. I feel terrible about how I acted and how I treated some poor kids. It had nothing to do with them and everything to do with me. My home life was bad and I took it out on people who wouldn’t fight back. I didn’t physically fight. In grade 6 I was 4 foot 10 and about 100 pounds. I just said really nasty, hurtful things.

I agree. I’ve been in altercations with criminals a few times, and if I insisted on beating them up rather than fleeing the situation or just giving them what they want (I’d rather lose $60 than get in a fight) it most likely would have ended up with me in the hospital, dead and possibly in legal trouble myself.

Fortunately, I was never bullied in school.

My workplace though, is another matter entirely…
About 10 years ago, I had to get into an older co-worker’s face {by invading his personal space without touching him}. I let him know that his behavior towards me would not be tolerated any more. {I confronted him privately where we were not seen nor heard}.

Soon afterwards, everything changed for the better between him and I ! :slight_smile:
Which is a good thing because he is my immediate supervisor from time to time. Unfortunately, his bullying behavior continues to this day, but he leaves me alone. He is the classic bully that folds like a house of cards after being confronted…
Finally, a few months ago, I had to straighten out another co-worker. Only this guy is 20 years my junior, an ex-Marine, and is 6’4" and 250 lbs of broad shouldered muscle, where I am 6’1" and 200 lbs of middle aged-ness.
I don’t think he really understands what a bully he is. People just naturally give him room in hallways, breakrooms etc. because of his size and confident stride/demeanor.

He is not afraid to loudly proclaim his opinions about all things big and small.

Well, one day a group of us were in the breakroom and this guy called me out on an issue and tried to humiliate me in front of my other co-workers. I can’t be publically humiliated and I saw RED. I lit into him like a verbal Tasmanian Devil and ripped him a new one. I punctuated my last sentence with “I’ve dealt with guys a lot tougher than you” and slid my chair back from the lunch table an inch or two {in case he wanted to back up his comments}. His chin just slumped against his chest and he shut the hell up. I paused for a moment, then left the room and it’s stunned silence.

A few minutes later, he sheepishly shows up to my office and asks for my forgiveness and I give it to him with the understanding that he watches his mouth around me. Both he and I get along fine now.