Definition of “Bullying” and Examples of What Is and Isn’t Bullying

bully word in a dictionary. bully concept.

Because people use the term “bullying” so widely today, they too often misuse and abuse it. In today’s climate, people throw the word around flippantly, and “bullying” is used in situations that don’t fit its use.

Many are too quick to stick the “bully” label on anyone who says anything they either disagree with or don’t like. There’s so much confusion about what is bullying and what is only rudeness, being a jerk, or voicing an individual opinion, whether good or bad.

Therefore, I feel an obligation to point out the definition of bullying and to clarify what truly is and isn’t bullying.

Here is the definition:

Bullying – an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical, and/or social behavior that intends to cause physical, social, and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening (https://www.ncab.org.au/bullying-advice/bullying-for-parents/definition-of-bullying/)

All too often, bullying is confused with:

1. Disagreements and truthful debates

2. Misunderstandings

3. Stubbornness

4. Incivility and jerky behavior

Bullying has become a blanket term to describe anyone who is only rude or opinionated. The label of “bully” is too quickly stuck to people who are not necessarily bullies but only uncivil jerks and jackasses- basically anyone who says, does, or believes anything that the labeler doesn’t find comfortable. This is wrong.

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For something to be considered bullying, there must be all of these ingredients:

1. An imbalance of power

2. Repetition

3. Repeated attacks against the same person over a long time.

4. The behavior has to be a habit or the same pattern, against the same victim.

If a 6’5” tall and muscular knucklehead on the street bumps into you and says, “Hey, idiot! Watch where the hell you’re going!”, then keeps walking. That’s not bullying. Is the person a total jackhole? Absolutely. But he isn’t necessarily a bully.

Now, if he deliberately ran into you and shot his mouth off to you every day, every time he saw you on the street. And he made a habit of it by continuing to harass you, then yes! He would be a bully. Because he would be using his size and height to intimidate you and he’d be repeating the behavior every day.

Here’s another example:

A person is voicing an opinion. When someone asks them if what they think of their new next-door neighbor, the person answers by saying,

“I think he is an arrogant, egotistical jackass.”

This is NOT bullying. It’s only voicing an opinion.

But! If the person continued this behavior for a length of time and smeared the new neighbor to everyone in the neighborhood in an attempt to turn everyone against her, then yes! It is bullying.

If two people are arguing over different beliefs, it’s not bullying Even if the argument is heated.

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Only when one of the arguers resort to repeatedly (notice I said, repeatedly) calling their opponent names and shaming them because they don’t agree nor share their beliefs, and the harassment goes on for a long time, against the same opponent! That, my friends, is bullying!

To prevent innocent people from being labeled as bullies, we MUST get clear on exactly what it is that constitutes bullying! Only then will we be able to apply it to those who are truly deserving of the label.

17 thoughts on “Definition of “Bullying” and Examples of What Is and Isn’t Bullying

  1. Absolutely. Most friends, couples etc have a little tongue in cheek playful banter with one another that is not to be taken seriously. It is important to understand the differences. Siblings are very much like that as well. Give each other a little playful grief but that is it. I sent you an email yesterday with a few questions. Thanks.

    • Absolutely! I apologize for not answering your email yet. I had to rush to help a family member yesterday evening. A tree fell on her and she’s not doing well so I’m having to use my phone to respond to messages. Please pray for her. I’ll answer your email as soon as I can.

  2. Very true, people are often quick to label someone a bully just because they’re outspoken. A real bully seems to pick a victim (sometimes a few victims) and repeatedly harasses them. I was bullied by a girl at school and I remember thinking how sad it was that she was obviously obsessed with me and must have had no real life of her own.. Or she was atleast incapable of entertaining herself and her friends so I was the entertainment.

  3. I was recently bullied in a volunteer organization. The Team Leader abused her power to try and get me fired. I fought back by emailing everyone on the Board and all the other Team Leaders. Lots of people who I had never even met supported me fully. It was amazing!!!
    The result was that the bullier lost her job as Team Lead, and was removed from the team. She is still in the organization but now everyone knows what she is really like.
    What I learned from this, never take on a bully by yourself. Gather as many supporters as possible!

    • Wow! That’s outstanding! I’m so glad everything worked out! And I totally agree with those last two lines. Thank you so much for your thoughts and for putting a smile on my face. I love it when the victim becomes the victor!

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