THE BLOG
04/17/2014 01:48 pm ET Updated Jun 17, 2014

Should We Really Bully a Bully?

In response to this post.

After reading The Huffington Post article about a grown man, Edmond Aviv, who was ordered by a judge in a disorderly conduct case to sit on a street corner for hours with a sign stating he was a bully, I was incensed. I truly read the article with shock and distain and not for Edmond Aviv -- although if his actions as described in the article were accurately portrayed they were unacceptable -- but towards the judge. You cannot fix bullying with counter-bullying and humiliation.

We are not an "eye for an eye" society. Have we not learned more from all the hatred and the wars than to become a nation like that?

When people are in close proximity of others such as at school, work or neighbors, there will be tiffs as people can be opinionated and judgmental. But when we see it escalate into harassment, I believe strongly that we need to avoid vilifying the bully and glorifying the victim, as this is not the solution. If we continue to take this approach, both bully and victim will likely go back instantly and continue the same pattern. 

Through my work as an activist for anti-bullying and spreading human kindness, I've learned that "fear" is at the root of harassment and bullying. Let's deal with that issue first.  I'm personally a survivor of both bullying and harassment and know that both the bully and the victim are actually "mirror images of each other." Typically the bully and victim both have bad self-image and low self-esteem which they portray very differently to the outside world. One takes the victim attitude and the other has a preventative air of "do not touch me or else" attitude.

Fear is something that makes us do the most terrible things imaginable. 

The quote I use when speaking at schools and corporations is simple: "Nobody strikes another human being when coming from a positive place." Mr. Aviv might be a bully, although I cannot pass judgment based upon an article as other circumstances may or may not be involved in the case, but punishing and humiliating Mr. Aviv is not the solution. Possibly through a sentencing of community work, anger management therapy and kindness and compassion, we are more likely to have a long-term positive effect. By putting someone like Mr. Aviv in a situation that confronts his fears, such as ordering community work in a rehabilitation center for handicapped children, he has a significantly better chance of learning to not be fearful of the handicapped by seeing they have all the same emotions and feelings as he does. Only then is he more likely to learn something. 

In my work as a human kindness activist, I have come to learn through experience that when you put both parties together with their grievances a floodgate of emotions open on each side and there is often mutual understanding. When both sides recognize the fear in each other, this is when a shift happens in both of them. The victim suddenly has empathy for the bully, who now seems a bit less daunting. By sharing his or her fear, the bully in turn feels some sort of relief which make them become more human. I've witnessed amazing results during intervention.

Contrary to teaching anything to Mr. Aviv, the hatred and fear he has for his neighbor is only more compounded by this exercise of punishment. And then we are surprised when it escalates in death?!

My message is deceivingly simple but very effective. When we help the bully and the victim together so that each understands one another, only then do the fears dissipate and the negative behavior ends.