Why do bullies bully?

There is not a single reason why bullies bully, but one thing experts agree upon is that most bullies are bullying because they are also victims of their circumstances, for example:

  • Hopelessness – a bully, for example, can see a situation at home: one parent physically or emotionally abusing another. The bully has no idea how to deal with the matter, and does not know who to talk to. This situation is extremely stressful for the bully, and he or she lashes out on someone they perceive equally or more helpless than they are. Why should the bully be the only one who suffers? Right? Wrong. We should rather help.
  • Insecurity – a bully may have security issues. They may not have a clear line of sight of where their next meal will come from, and thus, they steal other children’s lunch or lunch money. Being poor or insecure does not justify the action, though, and we should always follow the golden rule: see something, say something.
  • Shame – a bully might be ashamed of something. Bullying someone else may be a way to deflect attention away from themselves. Key to solving bullying cases for this reason is to deal with the underlying cause of what causes shame to the bully.
  • Jealousy – this reason happens a lot in schools where there are a great divide between the poor and the rich. The poor bully desires something the rich victim has, and is usually something of monetary value. This is not always the case though – sometimes the bully wants something less material. Sometimes they want recognition or attention, in which case the “teacher’s pet” often becomes the victim.
  • Anger – the bully is angry about something. Anything. The bully needs an outlet to the emotions they are experiencing, and an easy way for them is to lash out on someone is an easy target in their opinion. This outlet of anger for them makes them feel as if some of their anger is released and transferred onto the victim.
  • Peer pressure – in cases where a bully wants to fit in with friends or people who could potentially be friends, they are often feeling that bullying another could accelerate their acceptance into this closed group of elite friends. By showing that “you are not to be messed with” a bully gains respect of their peers, and incite fear into those perceived to be beneath them. This is common in gang-related incidents.
  • Fear – when someone is significantly different than the bully, such as a different physical appearance, a different sex, a different sexual orientation or preference, or the victim incites a feeling of disgust in the bully, the emotion of fear kicks in. This could be the fear of the unknown, or fear of something that they are scared of or conditioned to dislike at home. Bullies then lash out against these individuals in a false sense of self-protection.


So, why do bullies bully? We have mentioned several reasons, but there may be many more. Almost all of them are related to unwanted emotions that a bully may experience. Any unwanted emotion can trigger an event, and the severity of these events may be insignificant in the eyes of the bully (for example, sticking gum in the hair of the victim) to severe (gravely injuring the victim). What the bully does not realize, is that the simple act of sticking gum in someone’s hair may have serious repercussions for the victim, such as:

  • Backlash from their parents about why they allow themselves to be treated this way.
  • Encouragement from parents to retaliate, making the situation worse.
  • Humiliation from the victim’s peers, resulting in the victim feeling inadequate. In severe cases this can lead to self-harm, and even suicide.

Bullying is dangerous! Bullying is bad, no matter how you see it. If you see something, say something!

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