Schools across America are cracking down on bullies, with a zero tolerance policy toward any type of physical or verbal abuse between students. This comes in the wake of some terrible incidents reported in the news the last few years, in which students have committed suicide because they could not tolerate the bullying they have endured in classrooms, playgrounds, or on school buses.

At first glance, this is a good thing. No child should have to have suffer from a bully, or be afraid of going to school.

But then I get to thinking that maybe we need bullies. In one way, I think they serve a purpose.

You wouldn’t know it to look at me today, but as a kid, I was a skinny little runt. And because I was always the new kid in school, wore glasses, and was a bookworm instead of an athlete, I met my share of bullies. More than once, I had my books knocked out of my hands, I was tripped, teased, or called names, while onlookers snickered.

Today, school policies don’t allow such nonsense, but I grew up in a different era. We were expected to handle things like that on our own. I tried to handle it by winning the other kids over with my sense of humor, and played the class clown a lot. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t.

I learned early on that there are times when you just have to stand up to the bullies, and more than once when we moved to a new town, I came home with a fat lip, or a black eye. But it usually only happened once, because I always tried to give as much as I got.

That’s not politically correct today, but I learned a valuable lesson in those schoolyard tussles. The world is full of bullies, and sometimes you have to fight them. You may get banged up a bit, but bruises fade and cuts heal a lot faster than the pain of running away. Because if you run today, you’ll have to do it tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.

As I look at the world today, and at our society, I think maybe we need bullies. We have raised a couple of generations of Americans who have been taught that fighting is bad, and that reasonable people can settle their differences in far more acceptable ways.

That sounds good in theory, but in the real world, not everybody is rational and wants to solve their differences in a peaceful fashion. In the real world, we still have bullies. Bullies in our school, in our neighborhoods, in our cities and towns. And we have bullies on an international level. Eventually, somebody has to stand up to the bullies, or they take over.

If you have never had your nose bloodied, if you’ve never had to get down in the dirt and slug it out, your only choice is to run from the bullies of the world. And you can’t run forever.

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22 Comments on Maybe We Need Bullies

  1. Gary says:

    I don’t believe we need more bullies in the world today. I do believe that there would be far fewer today if as Americans we learn to stop turning the other cheek as the saying goes and do what is necessary to deal with these types of people. We need fewer liberals and less apathy in this country. If our forefathers were more like we are today I suppose more of us would be drinking tea, eating crumpets, and saying Hail to the Queen.

  2. T & R Martin says:

    Many a kid that was bullied, is today a comedien (or an editor). Who today can watch a movie where someone is being bullied & not cheer when the bully gets his/her comeuppance? Now that’s entertaining. Recently on the news, I saw a skinny little kid trying to beat the crap out of a much larger, heavier kid who was just standing by himself minding his own business. The larger kid was always being bullied, but evidently he had had it with this little snotnose. The larger kid body slammed little snotnose & the TV commentator took the side of (yep you guessed it) the larger kid being bullied. Did I mention snotnose also had a buddy with him?

  3. Ken H says:

    Yeah, as a continous new kid because of Dad being a driller, I always found the bullies. However, when I learned that on the second instance of somebody showing off, the first lick needed to be a good one, then the second and third. I did not know the meaning of fair, I could kick, bite and elbow with the best of ’em. Strangely, the principal visits weren’t always bad. Most often, the principal told the “starter” to be careful who he picked on the next time. Of course I got told we don’t allow fighting here, don’t do it again. Seldom had to.
    In today’s world, seems like the only thing that happens is the kid that is being picked on is expelled for something or other.

  4. Trisha says:

    Good for you all for learning to stand up to bullies. But what about those of us who just took it, not having the guts to fight back? Bullies made my school life a living Hell.

  5. Jim Walter says:

    Nick, I agree with most of your comments. However, I think that most of the suicides happen as a result of cyber bullying, which is another category and, I feel is a worse problem than normal playground bullying. How does a teenage girl fight back when her classmates use the internet to totally ruin her reputation? Of course that gets into the separate issue of modern technology, and how much to allow our kids to use it.

  6. harry bellerby says:

    I went to an all boys high school,2500 students,lots of bullying. But if it went too far we took care of it ourselves Today there is too much of “its none of my concern”.

  7. Christine says:

    The other consideration at this point in time is that the both bullies and their victims end up with deadly weapons in their hands instead of words from their mouth. Issues escalate. I don’t know the answer and agree with some of what you say but as with most issues…one size “answer” does not fit all……

  8. Dale says:

    There is one component involved that did not exist when we were kids: cyberbullying, and it can far crueler than a black eye or lots of bruises.

    Abuse is not just physical – it is verbal as well and more often than not, verbal is more lasting as it attacks the essence of who a person is.

    The dynamics of childhood have changed since we were kids and while we had our own ways of solving the situation, many of those would no longer work in today’s reality. Today, guns are used instead of fists, for example.

    While I believe that bullying will never cease to exist, I do believe that we can all find better ways around it; we are the country that can achieve whatever we set out to do.

    Perhaps this sounds naive, but I’ve seen recent examples of benign actions taken in response to bullying that have worked.

  9. Brad Barnes says:

    When I was growing up I wasn,t all that big and every so often would get picked on. My dad always told me to fight fair but if the other kid was bigger than you pick up the biggest thing you could find and hit him with it if he didn,t go down hit him again it usually worked.

  10. You gotta start with the peaceful, calm, measured, sane and rational approach, but that only works some of the time. If it doesn’t work, “you pick up the biggest thing you could find and hit him with it if he didn,t go down hit him again it usually worked.” (Thanks, Brad, for that quote!)

  11. Bill Daines says:

    I hate say I worked with an adult bully, he thought it was funny! I hate to think what he was like in his younger years in school.
    Now bullies in school. Unless you have worked a suicide as result of bullying and investigate the accusations, its extremely difficult to understand what the child goes thru. Kids seem to keep problems inside and do not share with others. I think the anti bullying policy are proper in schools. I actually feel some bullies get this from parents. Kinda like the statement I heard from parents sending a son or daughter to WMU, (don’t do anything worse than me when I was there) We have to send the appropriate response, ZERO TOLERANCE.
    Yes back in our day we could push and shove, come home with a split lip, black eye etc. Today we cannot do this. But yes by fighting back, it may end bullying. Today we have too many children who are really mentally fed up and cannot find a way out. And way too often their thinking is suicide. Or bringing a firearm to school. We need to change that. Be involved, do not ignore accusations, and monitor behavior closely. As always my opinion. Bill

  12. Paul Stough says:

    We dont “need” bullies in this world, but the fact is that there always have been bullies in this world, and there always will be. What we “need” is more effective responses to there actions. Everyone should research and read about how Bruno Bettelheim dealt with his Nazi bullies.

    On the international level guys like Gadhafi and Hitler were and are nothing but bullies. Hitler was stopped because most of the rest of the world was opposed to his bullying. Gadhafi, and other leaders in the Muslim world can get away with bullying because bullying is one the bases of Islam.

    The issue of bullying in schools is big news today. Even though no one should be bullied, this “zero tolerance” will never work! As long as there are bullies, and willing victims, bullying wont stop. Who gets to decide what is bullying? Since bullying is never going to stop, our kids need to be taught better ways to deal with it, instead of being taught that they dont have to deal with it, but someone will protect them from it.

    One of the main reasons for this emphasis on bullying is schools in this horrendous “self esteem” BS that kids are taught today! I define “self esteem” as what you feel you are worth based on what you think others think of you. Your self worth should be based on your accomplishments in life rather that on what you think others think of you!

    I can certainly see why a kid who is taught that their value as a person should be determined by what they think others think of them would consider suicide if someone bullied them.

    However, if kids are taught that their value as a person should be determined by their accomplishments in life, then bullying has little or no effect on them. Bullies pick on those that they see as weaker than themselves. Kids need to be taught how not to weak, or at least not to appear weak. As civility in our world continues to decline, this not being, or not appearing to be weak will become more and more important!

    More later,


  13. Rob Fox says:

    Nick, you are a good journo and provocateur. You have just learned how to stir a pot to perfection.

    No, we do not need bullies in this world and if it were possible to wish them away, I’m sure the behaviour would have been eliminated by now.

    And there in lays the real problem. Bullying is a learned behaviour and is greatly exaggerated in a home environment that permits or fosters it. Bullying very often starts with the parent (who’s parent probably bullied them). The child comes to think of this a normal behaviour and will therefore continue the cycle unless shown the error of their ways.

    So, I might be wrong but, the overwhelming majority would say that we don’t like bully behaviour and we don’t want bullies.

    The fact is that bullies are out there and we have to deal with them. Nick might have posed the less controversial question: “how should we deal with bullies”.

    Ideally we would be strong enough to handle things in a non confrontational, non violent way. The Gandhi way. Or, in keeping with belief, ‘turning the other cheek’. However, we live in an imperfect world and whilst we may encourage our children to reach for perfection, we need to prepare them for the practicalities in life. There comes a time when we have to make a stand and fight back. Of course it would be helpful if others around us would be brave enough to stand by our side.

    A recent episode of a popular TV program, “Apprentice”, had Mr Trump making the final decision between one guy, that was clearly not a pushy type, and the other that had exhibited physical and verbal bully behaviour. Mr Trump kept the bully! That says a great deal and is a sad indictment on modern life.

    The issue for society is the fact that not all bullies stopped and re-educated. Many go on to be successful business people and, dare I say it, politicians. Encouraged by their success, they continue their bullying behaviour. It is our individual and collective responsibility to stand up and expose bullies where ever we find them. By standing together we will turn this insidious tide.

    I’m a Brit and as proud of my country as you are of yours. Whilst not being a supporter of royalty (as in lord and master), it must be recognised that the role has greatly assisted the country. It has a stabilising and rallying effect. Not to mention the tourist value! The current Queen continues to perform wonderfully over the continuing and inevitable transformation of Empire. Britain did not have the opportunity and perhaps benefit of a “clean sheet” start to its democracy. If the question were posed right now, as to what should we do when the current Queen passes, I suspect that there would be a lively debate. We would look at the history of elected heads of state from around the world and I would bet my last Pound that we would vote to keep the monarchy. (although various members of the extended family are doing their best to upset my prediction).

    Bullying has little or nothing to do with your political view. I am sure you could find bullies espousing all manner of views: liberal, fascist, capitalist, communist, religious or atheist. A bully is a bully is a bully.

    “Gadhafi, and other leaders in the Muslim world can get away with bullying because bullying is one the bases of Islam” — This can be questioned on so many levels but let’s just take two. Islam is one of the great religions of the world and no true Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or even Atheist could accept that it is “based” on bullying. As we can see, however, the Islamic world creates bullies equal to any in the rest of the world. No faith has a monopoly on bullies. A far more uncomfortable truth is that these bullies have been enabled an emboldened by those who arm them and buy their oil. I guess that I have to share collective national remorse for the lack of direction we have provided to our government(s).


  14. Rob Fox says:


    The issue for society is the fact that not all bullies stopped and re-educated. Many go on to be successful business people, union leaders and, dare I say it, politicians.

    for balance!

  15. Linda Sand says:

    Paul Stough said, “I define “self esteem” as what you feel you are worth based on what you think others think of you. Your self worth should be based on your accomplishments in life rather that on what you think others think of you!”

    The phrase “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right” comes to my mind here. I had a father who taught me I couldn’t so I was worthless. So, even when I have accomplishments, I am unable to believe they add anything to my worth. People tell me otherwise but who could believe them over their own father? I’m 63 years old and still believing my bully was right even though I struggle to believe he was wrong.

  16. Paul says:

    It would be nice if the world were “perfect” and everyone were “nice.” But that isn’t reality. Kids would never learn to walk if we didn’t let them fall down over and over …they have to learn to STAND and WALK on their own. And kids will not grow into fully functioning adults if we “protect” them from every possible problem in their learning years. Adults who have been protected from any problem and any pain while growing up cannot even imagine solving their own problems …they will be whiners who expect someone else to step in and “fix” things. And too many adults expect that “someone else” to be the government. Yes, kids can be cruel and unfair …adults and life itself can be the same. OF COURSE we should protect children (and other helpless/defenseless people/creatures) from obvious threats to life and limb. But if we protect them TOO much they will never be able to function independently. Do we “need” bullies? …probably not, but they exist, so rather than trying to get kids to play like they do NOT exist, we need to teach kids how to deal with bullies. The kid who learns how to deal with each bully they encounter in life will be a healthy, productive adult …so goes my pastoral advice for the day…

  17. Paul Stough says:

    To Rob Fox; The difference between Islam and most other religions is that bullying is about exerting your power over others. This is one of the bases of Islam, but not of most other religions, even though you are correct there are bullies in any religion.

    I agree also that Nick is a very good provocateur.

    Linda Sand; I am very sorry to hear your father treated you in such a way, and I can only imagine how difficult it is to get past your upbringing.

    One of the reasons that bullying is on the increase is that if you do not care about others feelings, and the person you are dealing with does, you can take advantage of them. This is the basis of the success for most highly successful sales people.


  18. Gary Bergt says:

    For those of you that are interested in this topic, you might want to check out how a small town in Missouri handled their town bully. It happened in Skidmore Missouri in the summer of 1981. Just google Skidmore town bully and you will find an extensive listing of articles. Very interesting reading. A lot of “food for thought” on the subject.

  19. T & R Martin says:

    To Rob Fox: England without the Royal Family? Bite your tongue. I cannot imagine England without the Royal Family. I LOVE Queen Elizabeth & who did not absolutely ADORE the Queen Mother? Afterall it is ENGLAND. It would never be the same again.
    To Nick: Thanks for your top-notch THINK TANK TEAM. We need these folks in Congress.

  20. Jack Mayer says:

    I’m on Nicks side of this. I was never bullied that much as a child, ’cause I’m 6’2″ now, and was always big enough. I learned to fight young, and although I did not like to fight, I WOULD. Usually just a look and a mild comment ended it….

    Adult bullies are far worse. I have run into them. Had one at work once. Only two times did he try me…it just took a “You really don’t want to do that….” the first time. The second, he did not want to do that afterwards. You can not let bullies prevail. We do NOT live in a PC environment, and PC type behavior is a detriment to us all. IMO.

  21. Paul says:

    We don’t just need to learn to stand up to bullies. Sometimes we have to BE bullies.

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