(Working Word November 18,2009)
Jesus said, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Perhaps nowhere is this rebuke more relevant than in the media’s treatment of bullying.
The mediacondemning bullying. It has become one of their most passionate causes. Yet the media are the greatest perpetrators of bullying. They eagerly engage in it with no awareness that they are committing the very offense they denounce in others. When an opportunity to ridicule someone presents itself, they jump on it and self-righteously spread the story to the masses eager to consume it. Their mightier-than-sword pens endow them with the power to destroy the reputations, careers and emotional wellbeing of their targets.
My heart goes out to Melissa Anderson, an obviously accomplished and admired In no time, countless news venues judged her and the school guilty of the terrible sin of “blaming victims.” (link is external) Without looking deeper or bothering to get Miss Anderson’s perspective, zealous writers/radio hosts/television stations simply repeated the nasty attacks against her, and her “crime” went viral. And unfortunately, the viral story became the .coach, and to Brighton Grammar School in Melbourne, Australia for which she provides character development programs. They got thrown under the bus by the media for promoting resilience. Someone didn’t like Miss Anderson’s article called, “Bullying: helping your son be the victor, not the victim,” posted on the school website prior to her scheduled annual lecture, “Bullying: 33 prevention and coping skills” to .
Not surprisingly, the school cancelled the lecture. Thus, not only is Miss Anderson paying the price of her media jury, so are the students who were the intended beneficiaries of her lessons.
Her short article, which was quickly removed from the school website, spoke simple truth. It opened with:
“As a resilience coach I am adamant that, in any bullying situation, you must own your part of the problem, no matter how small, no matter how unfair it may seem. No one is lily-white and blameless. As a wise person once said – you must clean up your side of the street.”
Her article puts her in the company of the most highly regarded psychologists and philosophers.
“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.” – Victor Frankl
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” – Rumi
“He who has so little knowledge of humanas to seek by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life away in fruitless efforts.” – Samuel Johnson
Political correctness has made truth dangerous
Miss Anderson’s article is Resilience 101. Had she written it thirty years ago, no one would have batted an eyelash. But she failed to consider that in today’s politically correct anti-bully culture, there are simple truths that you can no longer say without courting trouble. Some parents were offended by her suggestions that the immature relationship styles and attitudes of their bullied children play at least some tiny role in their social problems, and that they can be taught to overcome them. Of course, there are exceptions to almost everything. There is the rare child whose serious impairments preclude them from being able to learn to take charge of their emotions and reactions and we need to protect them. But Miss Anderson’s work is directed at the vast majority of bullied children who do have the capacity to learn.
The complaints against Miss Anderson did not come from anyone who actually underwent her training. When I inspected the content andof the programs she offers via the Longford & Fraser Academy for Boys and the Shine Academy for Girls, I was highly impressed. We could all benefit from them. Furthermore, Miss Anderson seems to be something of a Renaissance woman: holding a degree in opera and a qualified pharmacist in addition to resilience coach and business manager.
Among the various accusations against her teachings, perhaps the most bizarre is that they are “bizarre.”
But there’s nothing bizarre about them. They are common sense. What is bizarre, though, is that so few social scientists recognize that the bullying psychology is a total reversal not only of the basic teachings of all serious schools of philosophy and religion but even of psychology itself.
What’s bizarre is that bullying researchers insist we must use evidence-based interventions, yet they promote interventions that have been proven by their research to be ineffective.
What’s bizarre is that researchers have been consistently finding that the bullying psychology is failing to solve the problem of bullying, yet it has become the dominant force in the way society understands and deals with problems.
What’s bizarre is that psychologists don’t see anything wrong with a branch of psychology that teaches us that we have absolutely nothing to do with the way other people treat us, that we are entitled to a life in which everyone is always nice to us, and that it’s society’s responsibility to make sure no one ever makes us feel bad.
What’s bizarre is that serious psychologists today believe that showing people how they are unwittingly contributing to their problems and teaching them how to solve them is the same as “victim-blaming.”
What’s bizarre is that modern psychology has come to believe that the way to promote resilience is to protect people from any unpleasant experiences.
What’s bizarre is that the great majority of people ridicule the excesses of political correctness, yet they fervently fight for anti-bullying laws, which are political correctness taken to the extreme.
What’s bizarre is that researchers have been publicizing their findings that the most effective approaches to bullying are ones that focus on victims taking responsibility for stopping the bullying2, yet bullying “experts” condemn anyone who suggests that victims take responsibility for solving their bullying problems.
What’s bizarre is that the science of psychology has been transformed from a scientific discipline that seeks to discover the factors that lead to interpersonal problems into a legalistic discipline that assigns blame and innocence for those problems.
The question of blame is irrelevant to psychology
Assigning blame is not the domain of science but of law and perhaps of theology. If someone has committed aagainst you, you take that person to court and try to prove that they are to blame so that they can be punished and forced to make restitution. Our leaders may engage in blaming people for their shortcomings or sins. But if we are in the psychological helping professions, our job is not to blame but to elucidate.
Of course victims of bullying are not to blame for their problems. It only makes sense to blame people who are intentionally doing things they know to be wrong. When we are repeatedly abused by the same people, we have no way of knowing the role we are playing in the way they treat us. We are trying hard to stop them from abusing us. We just can’t see why our efforts are getting opposite results.
Assigning blame is pointless for solving interpersonal problems. If I blame you for my problems, it will not solve my problems; I will only be angry with you. If I blame myself, it still will not solve my problems; I will only be angry with myself.
To solve my problems, I need to take responsibility for them. But I cannot take responsibility if I have no way of recognizing my mistakes.
The role of resilience coaches
And that’s where people like Melissa Anderson come in. They help us to see the role we play in our victimization and empower us to change our victim status. But in our topsy-turvy world, they now get vilified as “victim-blamers” for giving us the tools we need to become empowered.
If you wish to judge Melissa Anderson, don’t it by reading the ranting of self-appointed media judges who abhor “victim-blaming” yet have no idea how to solve the problem of bullying. Do it by listening to those who have learned from her. Click here to find heartwarming testimonials.
If you think that these testimonials only showcase her successes and not her failures, try to find evidence of failures. The Internet makes it easy for people to make their complaints public. The only complaints you will find are from the pundits and the uninformed who didn’t like her article.
And if the media truly want to make bullying disappear from society, the best thing they can do is begin with themselves.
Israel “Izzy” Kalman is Director of Bullies to Buddies, a program that teaches the practical application of the Golden Rule to reduce bullying and aggression and solve relationship problems.This article has been reproduced with permission from his blog.
1 Matthew 7:3-5New International Version (NIV)