How do I know if I’m being bullied or a friend is? | CFS

How do I know if I’m being bullied or if it’s happening to a friend?

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By Allison Franck, Licensed Master’s Social Worker, Christian Family Solutions

Thank you for asking this question. In the counseling world, we are hearing more about bullying lately than in the past. According to the Center for Disease Control Report in 2021, one in five students were bullied. The CDC says that the highest reports of bullying occur in middle schools, with 28% of the middle school students reported being bullied.

In the past, the topic of bullying was met with, “kids will be kids” or “everyone gets picked on.” Now, we’re taking bullying more seriously – for many reasons. Bullying can disrupt your life! It has social repercussions including not wanting to go to school or withdrawing from people. It can cause low self-esteem, drop in grades, or loss of your belongings. It can create physical bruises, scrapes or cuts. It can even provoke suicidal thoughts.

For all these reasons, bullying is serious. And there are things you can do to equip yourself and others when bullying occurs.

Bullying is an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behavior that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm.1

Bullying is a behavior that happens between two people who know each other. The characteristics of bullying (beyond a one-time situation) are:

  • The bullying behavior happens repeatedly with the intention of causing physical, social, or psychological harm.
  • Bullying happens more often than one time and is not just one random act.
  • Bullying is more than a “disagreement.”


Then, there are many different kinds of bullying. Four of the main kinds of bullying are physical, social, verbal, and cyber.

If any of these things are happening to you (or a friend), it’s bullying:

  • Physical bullying involves actions such as pushing, pinching, kicking, tripping, or hitting. It also includes damaging or stealing a person’s belongings.
  • Verbal bullying includes name calling, teasing, insults, racist comments, or sometimes even threats that are to intimidate the person. Verbal bullying also includes sexual harassment. Verbal bullying is more difficult to identify because sometimes it is viewed as “just in fun.”
  • Social bullying includes spreading rumors, doing things to another someone that embarrass or humiliate that person, being intentionally left out, or hurting someone’s reputation. Social bullying is usually done behind someone’s back.
  • Cyber bullying is when the bullying is done with any electronic device such as computers or phones. It is usually done on social media. Cyber bullying is hard to get away from because it doesn’t happen at school alone. Cyber bullying includes posting pictures or messages that are embarrassing, mean, or intend to hurt another person. It can also include impersonating another person or telling a person to kill themselves. Many kinds of cyber bullying are illegal and are considered harassment.


What to do if bullying is happening to you (or someone you know)


Try these things in the moment that bullying is happening to you:

  • Walk away. By leaving the situation calmly you are not giving the bully the reaction that he or she wants from you. It can be hard to not respond to the bullying, but walking way works better than responding.
  • Do not engage in a physical or verbal fight. Trying to fight or bully the person back can make things worse. The bully wants you to respond.
  • Tell the person to stop. Telling the bully to stop in a loud confident voice can sometimes stop the bullying in the moment. Then walk away.
  • Surround yourself with people who support you and care about you.


If you are being bullied (or know someone who is) tell a trusted adult such as a teacher, counselor, pastor, coach, or parent.  Telling is not “tattling.” Bullying is serious and it needs to be addressed so it can stop.


There are examples of bullying in the Bible.

  • Hannah was bullied because she couldn’t have children.
  • David was bullied by Saul (the King).
  • Daniel was bullied by people he worked with.


Each of these people turned to God in prayer and God helped them. Know that He will help you, too. He promises it! “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).  You KNOW this. To stabilize yourself in the situation, focus on what you know rather than what you feel.

Bullying can make you feel scared, sad, lonely, or unwanted. Remember, there are things you can do in the moment and as it continues. Every step of the way, be assured that God loves you and will NEVER leave you. God will give you the courage you need.


Help is available at the Stop Bullying Now Hotline 800-273-8255.

If you feel like you are going to hurt yourself or need help coping, you can get help through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 or text at 741741


These answers aren’t comprehensive … They are a start. If you or someone you know needs counseling please call Christian Family Solutions Counseling Care & Services at 800-438-1772.

If you are experiencing a health emergency of any kind, please dial 911.

If you are having suicidal thoughts or know someone who is, call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

1Definition by the National Center for Bullying

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