There are three kinds of bullies.

Only three, you ask? Well, the nomenclature of bullies is, admittedly, quite diverse. The family tree of bullying began with the first mammoth meat-stealing caveman and has trickled down through Spanish interrogators, radio shock jockeys and cyberthugs.

But, in the eye of The Signpost, bullies can be broken down into three principle categories: “Bullies” (with a capital B), “bullies” (with a lowercase B) and “invisible bullies,” which are the worst kind.

Bullies with a capital B are exactly what you think of when you hear the word “bully.” Picture every cartoon you ever watched as a child: An overlarge brute with a bad haircut and ill-fitting clothes stands over a herd of helpless students, shaking them upside down for their lunch money.

This group is actually more sparsely populated than one might think. Most Bullies start out stealing pudding cups at lunch, but never really progress past the public education system. Today, they are stocking your warehouse shelves (if they’re lucky and have some people skills), or, more likely, sitting at home watching the third rerun of “SportsCenter” and complaining about their lower backs. The really lucky ones stumble into some type of sales position and spend their days badgering people into buying new phone plans, or yelling profanities at the parents of the other team’s soccer players.

The second group — bullies with a lowercase B — is much bigger. This group includes that guy who sat behind you in freshman English, who always flicked your ear or turned your shirt collar inside out. “Bullies” with a lowercase B know that you don’t have to be big to be a jerk.

They find out what your weaknesses are (a low tolerance for being poked, sensitivity about a certain facial feature, poor parents) and publicly exploit them. They cut in front of you in line at the grocery store, or take up four parking spaces because their truck is just too awesome for only one. Your parents tell you that bullies with a lowercase B are usually just the product of a rough home life, or are just kids with low self-esteem. They’re probably right, but that doesn’t make it any more bearable.

But the worst group of bullies — and the most harmful, by far — is the horde of invisible bullies. This group includes all of us, at one time or another. And what is our main weapon? What is it that makes us worse than the lunch money thieves and the ear-flickers?

Gossip.

That’s right. Rumors are the invisible bully. Everyone has been on both sides of a rumor, and everyone knows how either side feels, which, for some odd reason, doesn’t seem to stop us from spreading them.

The story is commonly told of a boy who took his grandmother’s favorite goose-feather pillow up to the top of the tallest building in town. Wanting to see how they looked in the wind, the boy ripped open the pillow and sent the feathers flying across the roofs of the city. He marveled at the way they spun and circled in the breeze, scattering every which way to the farthest corners of town.

When the boy came home with the hollow pillowcase, his grandmother was furious. She demanded that he go back outside, find every feather and stitch her pillow back together. The boy searched and searched, but came home with only three goose feathers.

Once the pillow has been ripped open, it is impossible to collect the feathers. Gossip turns all of us into the worst kind of bully. Whether or not the information is correct does not matter. Rumors tear apart schools, offices, families and friendships.

Therefore, let us try not to be Bullies (pack your own lunch in the morning) or bullies (keep your hands to yourselves), or contribute to that great and abominable invisible bully.

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