Monday, January 11, 2010


I recently picked up some kids' books at the library on bullies. Well, dealing with bullies. Not how to bully! They weren't too bad. Maggie thought they were boring, but I thought there was some helpful stuff in there to think about.

For example, how do we tell the difference between good-natured kidding and mean, passive-aggressive kidding? People can sometimes be downright mean and then cover it up with "Can't you take a joke?" The political correctness out there in the world drives me nuts; it's like nobody can laugh and joke around anymore. So I don't want to go overboard in "not being able to take a joke." But sometimes you just know that the joke was intended to hurt and not to be fun.

A quote from one of the books was particularly concise and insightful, especially in light of a question from Bible class last week. The mom in the story was trying to explain to the daughter that she needed to let the teacher know what was going on, but the daughter didn't want to be a tattle-tale.
Tattling is when you're trying to get someone in trouble. Reporting is when you're trying to help someone in trouble.
It may be the perpetrator you're helping or the victim. And of course we're always willing to put the best construction on our own motivations as to whether we're actually helping or trying to ensure that somebody gets his just deserts. But still, this line does help clarify things for those of us who were emphatically taught that tattling is bad-bad-bad.


  1. I just found out that one of the girls at work thought I was a bully. We (meaning my co-workers and I) joke around a lot, and most of our joking is poking fun at each other. I don't know why, but that's something I've always been particularly good at. Maybe it's because Jeff, Sean, and I always made fun of each other, but we always knew we were joking.

    Anyway, the person I always make fun of the most is myself. I think it's one of my ways of letting people know that I'm just making a joke. I'm not honestly trying to pick on them. And everybody else understood that just fine. We have a "grand ol' time" laughing and poking fun at each other.

    But now I have to step on my tip-toes and watch what I say to the extreme, because one girl (who I didn't even poke fun at! - she's new, and I don't usually poke fun at people until I know them much better) evidently got highly offended by several of us who were "bullying" each other.

    We're not coarse, we don't use foul language, we're not inappropriate... most of our poking fun at is work related, or jokes we've developed from working with each other over several months.

    But now one person has essentially gotten us all "in trouble" for things we never even did - just things she perceived us as doing. (We're not REALLY in trouble - we just can't joke much anymore, not the way we did.)

    On the one hand, I want to be sensitive toward a person. On the other hand... can't people take jokes anymore?!?!

    Though, on your other point, I think this very well might be a case of "tattling"... I strongly suspect that there's some "trying to get on the boss' good side" going on. I feel bad for kids in school who get called "teacher's pet" and things like that just because they work hard and the teacher applauds them for it. I don't really feel so bad for the people who try to get on an authority figure's good side simply by getting others into trouble, though, rather than by showing that they can work hard and do a good job.

    Hmm. I think I was ranting. Well, I'll end with this: if the girl honestly was legitimately confused by our joking around, perhaps I'll recommend she go to the library and pick up some books on how to tell if someone's bullying or not. Well, maybe not. That's probably too straight forward. She'll just think I'm bullying her... Dangit!

  2. Also, I apologize for my really long comments. I don't know why I can't be brief. I think that it is a defect in my personality or social skills or something like that...

  3. No need to apologize for long comments!! It's okay! In fact, it actually helps keep me up-to-date on little details of your life.