Adult Bullying: Is It Ever Justified?

I just read a great sermon by Lucia Lloyd about suffering, in which she defines 3 types of suffering.  There is suffering caused by sin or evil in the world, suffering due to natural events, and what she calls “Jimmy Buffet suffering” — sometimes it’s just your own damn fault.

Teasing apart different causes of suffering has me thinking about looking at a whole range of issues in a new way.  One of them is this question of bullying — what is it, who does it, what does it look like, and are some kinds more accepted than others?  At the serious risk of being ostracized myself, I’m diving into this one in search of answers.

There is currently a lot of focus on bullying of young people, but what about adults?  It does seem that the gloves are still completely off when it comes to going after a grown person that the masses seem to think “has it coming.”  I posted a few days ago about secrets, and I’ll let you in on one of mine — well, I suppose it’s not a true secret, as some people know it very well, but here goes:  I love revenge.  I am an absolute junkie for the adrenaline rush of someone getting their come uppance.  Something about feeling like someone deserves to suffer because they are making others suffer appeals to my dark side.  And you know what else?  I hate myself for it.  It is a terrible character flaw, in opposition to what I truly believe in my heart is the highest and best purpose of human action, and just plain redneck tacky.

Coach Bill Stewart of the beloved WVU Mountaineers’ football team is getting beaten around the head and neck pretty severely for some embarrassing losses.  It’s hard to see a team you love start to lose, especially games they are “supposed” to be winning.  I realize I am not dialed into the emotional collapse of so many fans, as I didn’t go to school in Morgantown and while I support the team I don’t favor them especially over other West Virginia schools.  I’m more likely to pull for the West Virginia team over another state.  But I do remember when Stewart took over the team after Rich Rodriguez fled to Michigan, and how grateful and even teary eyed so many abandoned Mounties fans were when Stewart led the team to victory over rival Pitt.

Sports fans can be a fickle and vicious bunch.  I think the question we are grappling with socially — and well beyond college football — is this: Is this ever a fair and acceptable way to frame and treat another person?  Can we excuse our own aggressive and even ugly behavior by claiming it was justified by someone else’s shortcomings or failures, real or perceived?  Are there some settings, such as sports, where it will always be accepted to dehumanize a man and throw him into the coliseum?

I hope not.  For now, it appears to be the case.

Image credit: Intentional Foul

3 thoughts on “Adult Bullying: Is It Ever Justified?

  1. These negative battle cries are unbecoming to West Virginians. I am stunned to witness people who otherwise decry all forms of bullying, engaging in critical diatribe, hate speech, and name calling when it comes to Coach Stewart.

    Oy, this polarization! Our hyper-critical culture has elevated the existence of the ‘other’ in our culture spanning ethnicity, sexual orientation, political parties, and now–a new low–coaching techniques. Bullies across society translate difference to: “You don’t look like me. You don’t act like me. You don’t vote like me. You don’t live like me. Your second half strategy is different that what I’d pick. Therefore, you are demonized.”

    Practically speaking, those who can stand in the gap between the bullies and the bullied have growing responsibilities. When we ignore the situation of those being demonized, abused, hurt, or oppressed, we are not being faithful to tenets of fairness, grace, tolerance, and care. We must, like never before, lift up the Golden Rule and demand respect for one another. We must live this out in home life and all areas of influence – including in the media, in daily conversation, and, like my friend Elizabeth, on our blogs and Facebook.

  2. I make no apologies for hoping Rodriguez fails miserably at Michigan, even being a minor WVU fan. I hope Herb Sendek (formerly of NC State) never does worth a damn at Arizona State. But some people take it too far- it’s a bit too easy to blast someone you don’t know personally (the same apparently applies in Congress). I suppose I think to a certain point taking heated criticism from idiots hiding behind usernames is part of the job in sports; it’s unavoidable, anyway. But when it reaches the point of demonization or insulting the subject on a personal level for merely not succeeding, then it is bogus. I hold “betrayal” against a coach more than failure. Thus, Rodriguez seems more worthy of wrath than Stewart to me.

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