Do you have something that you only wear or use on special occasions? An outfit, jewelry, cutlery, dishes, perfume. What if you had a special outfit, lets say a dress…or suit, that you decided to wear more often. Lets say you decided to wear it everyday. Suddenly your special outfit is just common, worn out, stinky and people are starting to look at you strange.I have recently noticed a trend in society to overuse and misuse a word to the point that it is in danger of becoming common and worn out. That word is……….Bully.
I recently overheard a conversation in which someone declared, “I was bullied when I was young.” My first thought was, “Ya, and who wasn’t”. As I continued on my way I thought about my response and realized that it was rather callous. I started to dissect my thought process and ponder the definition of the words bully, and bullied. I thought back to times in my life when I had been treated unkindly. I thought of other people that I had seen be picked on relentlessly while in school. I thought about it all for quite some time and came to some conclusions.
My response of thinking we have all been bullied wasn’t necessarily wrong. When I was in Jr. high I was pinned against my locker a couple of times, yelled at from people in passing vehicles because of the clothes I wore, and chased through town by people who didn’t like the way my friends and I dressed. In high school I had a boy that decided it was his mission to torment me based on his incorrect perception of my sexual orientation. He called me names, pushed my desk around, and threw rocks and chunks of mud at me. Chances are most people have had similar experiences so the response of, “Ya, and who wasn’t”, was not really the problem. The bigger problem was the lack of sympathy I felt.
I started to wonder why, at first, I felt little to no sympathy for this person. Knowing what it feels like to be bullied should make one more sympathetic not the opposite. When I stopped and thought about how it feels to be bullied and how it would feel to endure bullying on a regular basis I was sympathetic to this person. I also felt sympathy to the many people who have endured relentless bullying at any point in their life. So it really wasn’t that I didn’t feel badly for the pains endured it really boiled down to the word “bullied”.
The term Bully is becoming a catch all category for anyone who does anything unkind, mean, or rude at anytime. I don’t think that is how the word bully should be used. The term bully should be reserved for those who are habitually cruel to others. Just as I wouldn’t refer to someone who bops up and down to music as a Dancer, or someone who is running indoors to get out of the rain a Runner, I won’t refer to someone who is occasionally unkind as a bully. “Bully” has become common, too common. Not because we are more aware and educated and not because there are more of them but because we are using the word in cases where it shouldn’t be used. I have heard the word bully used by people as a justification for their own cruel actions. I have heard it used in a teasing, jocular way. I have also seen people use it as a way to gain attention and favoritism. I have heard it used to shame. The word is losing it’s power.
Because of this overuse and misuse of the word bully the idea of someone being bullied also loses it’s seriousness. This is not acceptable. Teach your children not to bully, stand up to a bully, defend someone who is being bullied but lets not overuse and misuse the word. Those who were and are bullied deserve to be taken seriously and those who are bullies deserve to have a word reserved to adequately describe them. So out of respect for those who have been or are being bullied lets not turn the word bully into a common, worn out, stinky dress/suit.