A non-exhaustive recitation of items that aren’t bullying:
– Your doctor telling you that you need to lose weight to avoid negative health consequences.
– A baseball player who has agreed to abide by union and MLB rules being punished under those rules.
– A cable company refusing to carry a channel during a contentious dispute over a business arrangement.
– Using rules of procedure to close off a line of questioning that may expose a weakness of your political party’s position.
– A boss giving an employee a hefty workload or not responding to every communication by a subordinate.
– Political maneuvering, such as imposing significant taxation, designed to open talks over shared sovereignty of an island.
– And, of course, a random e-mailer pointing out the possible obesity of a local news anchor who covers health issues.
We’ve reached a threshold, here, folks. One that should worry us.
A few months back, I went to the doctor for a routine visit. Although everything was fine, my doctor pointed out at the end of the appointment that I should probably drop some pounds for a variety of long-term health reasons.
I wasn’t offended. I didn’t get upset. My only reaction was, “He’s right, of course—and I’m glad he said it.”
So, about three months later, I’ve dropped 30 pounds via a very complicated program: I eat less and I exercise more. Fewer calories in, more calories out. Radical, I know.
I’m not saying losing weight should be easy, or that people who try to lose weight and can’t are flawed. The important point is that a doctor merely doing his job is not “bullying.”
He’s a trained professional who knows what will happen to a person if he continues to be 40 or 50 pounds overweight. Do we really want doctors who value a patient’s short-term emotional feelings over the patient’s long-term quality of life? Do we want bosses who will heap praise upon mediocre or bad employees instead of providing ways to make that employee’s work improve? Do we want business negotiations to revolve around making the other party feel loved?
My concern is that we’ve now moved into strange cultural territory where any negative action or commentary—even if constructive, logical, and well-founded—can be dismissed by the person who receives it as “bullying.” That allows the recipient to side-step potentially beneficial reflection in favor of embracing a non-productive victim mentality.
Increasingly, we don’t much care for judgment or consequences anymore. And there’s currently no better way to escape those things than to deal with any bad vibes that waft our way by chalking them up to “bullying.”
Unfortunately, not only does this mentality do a disservice to victims of actual bullying (e.g. kids who get harassed at school on a daily or weekly basis), but it also lets us avoid facing harsh truths about ourselves: We’re overweight. We’re doing a crummy job at work. We’ve been bested at the negotiating table.
Relentless, real bullying is a terrible thing. I would never defend that. But not everything that the press, politicians, or activists currently refer to as “bullying” qualifies. Putting it all under one, ever-growing umbrella is damaging to society.
As long as a criticism is accurate and delivered without spite, I look at it as a blessing. Maybe we should focus a little more on taking valid points to heart and focus a little less on rejecting almost everything that hurts our feelings even a little.
Sometimes, things that make us feel bad also make us better.