Saturday, February 05, 2011

Vicious Cycles

I was recently reminded, via a television show, of the fact that bullies are themselves usually deeply wounded individuals. Whether they're acting out in response to being bullied previously, to some other trauma in their past, or merely out of fear (which fundamentalist religion is saturated with), life is rarely as black and white as we'd like it to be.

What's true of kids in a schoolyard is just as true in the adult world. The main difference is that the Tony Perkinses and Bryan Fischers of the world can cause pain on a scale that no seventh grader could even dream of. Whatever old wounds and deep-seated fears motivate them to bully entire classes of people, even they may not fully understand.

The fact that they and their ilk are victims in their own right doesn't lessen the need for decent people to stand up to them and work to prevent the harm they would do, but it can at least temper the way we view them. The Golden Rule requires that we not lose sight of their humanity, even when they seek to dehumanize us - and as human beings they are still bearers of the image of God, however difficult they may make it for others to see in them.

The bullies in our world might not appreciate our efforts, but by keeping in view the humanity that underlies their angry and hate-filled tirades, we just might someday come up with a way of breaking the cycle of abuse that made them what they are.

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