Opinion: The No-Bully Zone

Herbie J Pilato

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Bullying shows up in many forms, some more obvious than others, and in either case, can prove to be an obstacle to living a full life.

We all know about the mean-spirited school-yard kid (or worse the teacher!) or a middle-aged co-worker (or worse, the boss!), who speaks with condescending tones, employs hurtful name-calling tactics, and/or seeks to somehow make the other person feel unworthy.

In actuality, of course, it is the bully who is insecure and lacks true self-worth. The bully is littered with low self-esteem and tons of self-hatred. He or she does all they can to lift their own lowly spirits by attempting to - and many times succeeding - to douse the joy or comfort of the happy spirits who they deem less worthy.

Unfortunately, I speak from experience, not as a bully, but as one who has been bullied, physically, psychologically, emotionally, and professionally my entire life.

For example, I've always been athletic, but never interested in sports. When I was a kid, that was a tough stance, because many of the jocks in school frequently laughed and called me names (i.e. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer).

Of course, and fortunately, karma eventually shows its ugly or pretty head.

As when at my high-school Senior Ball, back in 1978, a few bullying classmates attempted to embarrass me. From what I can remember, they had instructed the band to perform a disco song (I Love New York), and the lead singer then invited me to dance, a talent for which I was both praised and ridiculed.

Today, any kid who can dance is glorified and worshipped.

In 1978, not so much, as John Travolta's Saturday Night Fever superstar status was still in the infant stages of reaching mainstream acceptance.

In any case, back at the Senior Ball of ’78: I did my dance and ended up mirroring every dance move that Travolta made in Fever. Once I completed the performance, all the girlfriends of the bullying jocks ran and cozied up to me, leaving their boyfriends in the cold with dropped jaws.

A few minutes of euphoria almost made worthwhile the four years of tortured bullying.


I was bullied because I was not fond of sports; because I could sing, dance and act; because I had a personality, and lived life with enthusiasm and joy without any of the extra securities that my peers seemed to hold dear. I didn't know how to play basketball (except for one glorious day in gym class), and I laughed a lot at the simplest of treasures.

For some reason, none of this was understood by a certain hurtful few. So, I was attacked and abused (and, unfortunately, similar experiences still transpire today).

Yet, I still don't understand why someone who is gifted with various talents, would set out to hurt someone else who was also gifted, but with no or different talents?

Or why any bully would call anyone else dumb? Does that automatically make him or her smart? Or at least make them think they're smart? Is that why they do it?

If a bully picks on someone, does that give them a sense of superiority?

If a bully attempts to manipulate the life of another (and that other person allows it), does that make them feel more in control of their own life?

Probably and sadly, yes to all of the above.

But what of the more subtle bullying that transpires between folk of all ages?

If there is someone who is in need, and an individual with power and position and money knows of this person who is in need and does nothing to help them, is that a form of bullying?

It would seem so.

Anyone can feel sympathy for the less fortunate. But true kindness, and a non-bullying manner, are displayed when we can not only be happy for the person above us on the ladder of success, but when we are also indeed the REASON the other person climbs the ladder to the top and succeeds.

Another example of the Subtle Bully is the Passive-Aggressive Bully, who we may refer to as the Judas or the Brutus Bully.

The Judas/Brutus Bully seems to be your friend, treats you nicely, compliments you, and praises you to others with you in the room. He or she then sets out to sabotage your character or any part of your life (and career!), when you're nowhere to be seen (and then again, sometimes even in plain sight).

It's like the classic image of the lover who kisses and caresses your face while whipping out the dagger to stab you in the back.

In all, and in every case, the experiences are staggering.

Yet, bullies have always been and will always be. They are hurting and lacking in ways that non-bullies will gratefully never know.

Non-bullies are content and have no reason to call other people hurtful names.

Non-bullies have no desire to control the lives of others, for they are too busy being happy and sharing joy.

Bullies, meanwhile, do not so much need pity, as much as they need prayers and blessings.

And if we are to fully lead the A-Life, then, to paraphrase a very wise soul from ages ago...we must bless those who curse us, pray for those who hurt, and love and forgive those who hate us (and themselves).

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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