“Bullies are bad people who hurt other kids intentionally.”

Does this sound like how a kid might talk about bullying? Actually these are the words I’ve recently heard two very concerned and thoughtful adults use when talking about the problem of bullying. And both times I’ve challenged them to look at the problem differently. Bullying isn’t about bad people…it’s about bad behaviors. Here’s a heartwarming story about a kid that really brings this message home.

Why is it important to make this distinction? It gives us the power to make change. If we recognize that even good people make mistakes we start focusing on being more aware of our words, our deeds, and our intention. I hear a lot of talk about the problem of bullying with kids. And I have to ask myself, “where did they learn these behaviors?’ I turn on the TV and see shows where people’s earnest efforts at cooking, singing and dancing aren’t met with just constructive criticism, but with derisive and intentionally humiliating comments… and that’s part of the “fun” of the show. I read the on-line comments at the end of a web article, or sometimes below a photo; they’re often not spirited debate about the issue but personal attacks. It easy to act like a badass on line… no one knows your identity. Would these people think of themselves as bad people? I doubt it. When we recognize that we all have crossed that line on occasion, we redefine the problem and take a big step toward fixing it.