Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I Don't Like a Bully

I'm tired of talking about all the illness in the house around here. Time to switch gears.

I had a revelation today:
I don't like bullies.

I'm sure you are all like, "well, who does?" Yep, who does?

I don't know. I actually don't think anyone likes a bully, not even the bullies themselves.
But, even though we don't like it, we know it is wrong, we don't do anything to stop it all too often.
We say it is bad, we sometimes go to rallies or wear special "Don't Bully" shirts and whatnot, but we don't actively STOP bullying very often. Why don't we? I think because it is scary and hard to stand alone when someone is being picked on. We make ourselves a target that way and that is no fun.

I'm ashamed to admit I recently saw a bully in action and I did nothing about it.
Over the holidays we had some events we attended with kids. One in particular had some kids in attendance who have bullied one of my smaller children in the past and we opted not to take our kids because we just didn't want to deal with the situation. Yes, we had done all the steps parents should take in these situations, but all things considered, we didn't want to open a door for any conflict for kids or parents. I was really glad we didn't take our kids as during this event I watched one of the children we had concerns about physically and emotionally bully another child. Oh, it made me so angry. I wanted to do something so bad... but, I didn't want to make waves. So, I was silent, even though I knew it was wrong. I was just too afraid of rocking the boat saying something to parents and causing problems at a perfectly lovely event.

Shame on me.

Extra shame on me because I understand what it is like to be bullied. When I was a teen I was bullied by the parent of someone I dated and his extended family. It was really horrible, horrible to the degree that I actually disassociated myself from my church for years because these people used parts of our mutual faith to bully me and wow, it did a number on my self esteem. I had some really bad years after that and some experiences that I can't fully blame on these bullies, but I now understand that their treatment of me did have a great deal to do with some of the worst experiences of my late teens, even after I had moved miles away from these people.

Something I remember the most from this time in my life is how I would wish someone, anyone, would stand up for me and stop these people from treating me this way. But, these people had reputations for being just amazing and they were also a bit of a force to be reckoned with. They were viewed as good members of our mutual faith, so who would say something to them?

No one.

It took years to recover from those experiences, years to like my religion and understand that the church is wonderful but the people can be really mean, years to forgive these people for what they did to a 16 year old girl without any thought for the long term damage they were inflicting.

But, those experiences, those years gave me the tools to realize I was stronger than any bully, what others say and do are a reflection of how they feel about themselves and that forgiveness and love are the best weapons to wield.

It also taught me that I have to be my own heroine. I can't count on others to rescue me, I have to be strong enough to always rescue myself. I think I've become pretty good at defending myself when I need to (which really isn't often once word gets out that a short blonde takes no tomfoolery or beyotchery).

I learned one more lesson that I sometimes forget.
Not everyone is ready to defend themselves from bullies.
That is where the rest of us need to come in. When we see something that is hurtful to another person or people, no matter the "good intentions" of the person doing the hurting, we need to stand up and say something, even at the risk of being disliked for it.
If we are around a person who uses bullying and shaming tactics to manipulate others over and over again, we should walk away from that association, lest we become like them. Even people with good intentions can be really mean, which is sad.
I've been guilty of it before, something I'm not too terribly proud of. Sure, my intent was noble, but I was basically forcing others to think like me by using scare tactics and manipulations to make them feel bad about themselves. When I realized I was basically bullying others I stopped. It isn't okay and I don't want to be that person.

I'll tell you who I want to be. I want to always be someone who will defend others when they can't defend themselves. I want to be someone who is known to stand up when people are mistreated and will clearly speak against those trespasses. I want to be someone who isn't bully-proof, but who knows who she is enough to take heat from mean people if it helps another person.

I want to be smart enough to see through someone's reputation and into their heart. I want to be brave enough to walk away from people who need to wield something form of superiority over others to feel good about themselves without becoming like that person. I want to stand up against a bully, but still show respect to all parties involved because really, if I've learned anything it is that the angriest mobs you find out there are really just a bunch of people who are scared of something and don't know a better way to behave.

I think I'm heading down the right road, but I'm not all the way there yet. I still get scared to stand up and say something and when I do say something I always worry that I'm hurting feelings, because I really don't like to hurt feelings. But I just can't be silent and sleep at night.

Now I ask all of you, who are you? Who do you want to be? What do you need to change?
No one is perfect, I'm certainly not. But, I'm trying. This is one more way I am going to be stronger this year. When I see a bully, I will say so. Maybe if I do, someone won't go through a horrible experience they don't deserve, and maybe a bully will see what they are doing and change.

1 comment:

  1. Great thoughts. Confronting a bully is hard, especially when it's someone else's kid. I did it at an indoor playground and all kinds of craziness ensued when she went all Mama Bear on me, so that I wondered if one of us was going to be arrested or sued. But it still needed to be done. But it makes me want to avoid conflict even more.