Staring Down the Bullies

1 Mar

My oldest son asked a profound question this morning. He asked me if I thought that bullying was worse than when I was young or did I think that we are we more sensitive to things that would have been shrugged off when I was young. I think it’s both. Before the internet, bullies were limited to face to face encounters and the occasional printed material. Now they have Facebook and Twitter and even those without physical power over others can have emotional power like never before. On the other hand, when my children were younger, I saw behavior such as tripping and wrestling be considered bullying. Was it mean? Yes, but not bullying, at least not in my day.

Then I remembered my own bully. His name was Brian, and he made my life miserable. In the second grade, two significant things happened in my life. I moved which required entering a new school mid-year and I got glasses. I loved my new school and my new teacher. She praised me for being smart. She gave me challenging work that I loved to do. It was a dream, except for Brian. He had an instant dislike for me and every outdoor recess did everything he could to torment me. He called me hurtful names and made fun of my glasses. His words made me feel small and angry and I hated him. I hated him so much and that hate lasted so long, that when Brian was killed in a car accident in high school, I felt no sorrow, no pain. I actually felt relief that he was gone. In my adult brain now, I mourn that Brian felt so powerless in his own life that he had to bully others. In my adult brain, I can see that Brian must have had some big issues of his own, but in my child and teenage brain, I could only be glad to be rid of him.

That realization led me to an even more interesting place. It made me think of the times I had been the bully. I don’t like to admit it, but there have been times I’ve been the one to push others around and get what I want through anger and intimidation, especially as a parent. It’s not a pretty place, and I’ve had to ask forgiveness from my children more times than I care to mention. So, why did I do it? Because it works. That’s not an excuse; it’s an explanation. When all else fails, bullying has worked, but the price is children who are afraid, a mom who is filled with guilt and a home that needs to heal. It’s a place I hope we never go to again.

So having been on both ends of the bullying spectrum, here’s my take on the issue; it has to stop. The next question is how to make it stop and that is more complicated. For my part, I know that the times I’ve resorted to bullying, I’ve felt powerless and afraid. I’ve felt like I have no other way to be heard. I’ve felt the anger take over for the powerlessness and fear, and I’ve felt the guilt that follows for creating that feeling of powerlessness and fear in others, but the answer to the problem is in the problem itself. The answer is to teach children to feel powerful and loved, and if you missed out on that as a child, teach yourself to feel that way. We all have the power to change our lives in a positive way. Each day, week, month and year can be better than the last. I know that because I live it.

The other piece is to realize that every person in this world is as valuable as every other person. If you believe in a Divine Creator, that means that God loves every one of us. If you believe in the Constitution, it means that all men are created equal. If you believe in metaphysics, we’re all created from the same energy and will return to that energy. In any case, learning to see others as valuable will teach you to release the bullies. It will allow you to let those people move out of your life instead of taking up space in your mind and heart that you need for your own power and love. Sometimes that can happen in an instant and sometimes it takes therapy or police involvement, but whatever it takes, it’s worth it. So go live your best life. Be your best. Envision others at their best and create the world you want to live in one day at a time, and if you come face to face with a bully, on the street, on your computer or in the mirror, know that the behavior is because of fear and powerlessness, and you have the tools to overcome it. Thanks for being you and have a great day.

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