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Anne VandeMoortel is a Moline school nurse, blogger, grandmother of five, Prader-Willi mother, serial hobbyist, and collector of people and their stories.

I attended an in-service for work which included a segment about bullying. It was a timely segment given the fact that October is Anti-Bullying Month. Bullying has been around forever, and although we often think of it as a problem just for school children, that isn’t the case.

Bullying happens in the workplace, on sports teams, and even in religious organizations. A bully comes in all shapes and sizes. Man or woman, girl or boy, brother or sister, parent or even grandparent. A grandchild might bully an elderly grandparent or it might be the other way around. Perhaps you have a superior at work who is a bully, or a colleague who bullies others. A spouse can be a bully.

Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice, and the Bible, tell us Jacob’s other sons bullied Joseph to such an extent they ended up selling him into slavery!

On television we watched both Opie and Barney be tormented by bullies in Mayberry. Opie repeatedly handed his lunch money to an insistent bully and Barney lived in fear (and constantly in uniform) of a man who had threatened to beat him up if he ever caught him out of uniform.

I thought I was being bullied recently by two different women. The first was being paid to do a service for me. She damaged property of mine she was trying to fix, tried to blame me to save herself, and called me a liar. I was shaken to have such behavior directed toward me.

The other woman was unhappy with some information I had given her, so she bombarded me with repeated vile and threatening verbal and written communication. Being attacked in such a manner rattled my nerves.

When my daughter was young, boys from her class repeatedly harassed her and taped signs on her back saying, “kick me.” When she was older, a boy doused her thick blond curls with lighter fluid and set her on fire. I remember answering a phone call from her school and feeling my knees buckle under me and the wind sucked from my lungs when I was informed that she had been set on fire. I thought that was the worst case of bullying I had ever personally known.

While listening to the presentation at our in-service I realized that I didn’t exactly know what bullying was. I think many people don’t know what it is.

Bullying is:

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  • Deliberate with the intent to hurt someone
  • Involves an imbalance of power with selected targets
  • Repeated and targeted behavior

Bullying is not:

  • Single episodes of social rejection or dislike
  • Single episode acts of nastiness or spite
  • Random acts of aggression or intimidation
  • Mutual arguments, disagreements, or fights

I learned that sometimes people are just mean. The woman who damaged my property was a liar and a mean woman, but she had not bullied me. The other woman certainly was a bully.

I was flabbergasted to realize that the little boys had been bullies, but the one who I considered to be the worst bully was not a bully after all. My daughter being set on fire was a single act of violence.

This fact doesn’t make me feel any better. My gut still seizes up at the remembrance of receiving that horrifying phone call. I remember watching the fire-starter while we were in the courtroom and I thought he needed to be taught how to be kind instead of mean.

Does it really matter if it is bullying or meanness?

Does it matter if it is October?

Let’s simply promote kindness. Always.

Anne VandeMoortel is a Moline school nurse, blogger, grandmother of five, Prader-Willi mother, serial hobbyist, and collector of people and their stories.

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