Articles are available for reprint as long as the author is acknowledged: Domenick J. Maglio Ph.D.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


By Domenick J. Maglio PhD. Traditional Realist

"Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never harm me," has been turned upside down to "names will always harm me.” Calling someone a name now is being considered by some to be bullying. Saying something that may be true but is construed as offensive would not be considered bullying in the past but probably would be today. This new definition is forcing people to weigh every word they want to utter before speaking, stifling free speech.

It places the onus on the speaker to guess the sensitivity level of each person with whom they interact or suffer the consequences of being identified as a bully. Bullying has been expanded to the point that anyone anywhere who experiences a self- perceived insult could allege that she has been "bullied."

In the not too distant past all bullying activities had a common denominator. It was intimidation by a person or a group without an easily accessed path to escape. No longer is bullying a physical threat or verbal attack forcing a person to do something against his will. When people thought of bullying, a picture would arise of a gang of kids surrounding a youngster and physically intimidating him until he acquiesced to give up his lunch money or do something offensive against his will.

This radical change in the definition of bullying from physical coercion to a message on a phone or computer or a verbal slight has put too many reasonable children in criminal jeopardy. A youngster who in an offhanded or joking manner might call an associate fat, ugly, skinny, stuck-up, moody, sensitive or whatever may be committing a bullying infraction. 

An anonymous viewer called a recent local newscaster “fat”. She became an Internet sensation for launching into an outpouring of her feelings on the air. She commented how this remark was a nasty act that hurt her feelings although she admitted she was overweight and possibly obese. She stated that the person had no right to email this “bullying” comment to her. This is taking cyber messaging to new level of scrutiny through her emotional diatribe.

Instead of simply deleting this remark or ignoring it, she used it as a testimonial to become a victim and poster person for cyber bullying. This person felt she had a right to be protected by law from some unknown message sender's assessment of her appearance. As a public figure, her acknowledging this meaningless statement at best made her look immature and at worst as an unprofessional whiner.

The occurrence of these childish incidents has historically been part of growing up. People can be insensitive or purposely attempt to hurt someone else's feelings. In either case the person whose feelings are hurt has to learn a way to deal with it. A person has to grow a "thicker skin" by realizing he or she has the mental power to disregard or stand up and tell the other that she does not appreciate the comment.

Never should the offended person react to the comment emotionally as it will only give the other person satisfaction. By making a big deal of a stupid statement it is unconsciously motivating the obnoxious behavior.  It is a missed opportunity to learn the important lesson that the more you allow people's comments to bother you, the more you will get them. The greater issue a person makes of a perceived insult, the larger the number of sharks will be aroused to attack.

Children watch the reactions of others to see how their words affect them. The more the reaction, the more they will escalate the put-down towards the vulnerable, thin-skinned person. It is a reality that should be learned early in life to prevent life-long suffering.

We cannot or should not define stupid statements as bullying since the word "bullying" will become meaningless. If someone does not like being around a certain person due to his biting adjectives, delete him from your life. We have the freedom to associate with people we choose.

Individuals have more power than they realize. Disassociating yourself from anyone who shows she is incompatible with you or is mean spirited should be done as soon as you realize it. It is better through one's own efforts to disconnect from a toxic person than having government make everything and anything a crime.

By extending the definition of “bullying” to make it a crime is another way for big government to worm itself into the culture and interfere with our freedoms. No matter how big and powerful the government there is no way to insure civil behavior. The only way to create a kind environment is to choose your friends wisely and ignore and remove yourself from obnoxious people.

Dr. Maglio is an author and owner/director of Wider Horizons School, a college prep program. You can visit Dr. Maglio at


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