I read a post once by an author Kristin Kuiper that starts out with “Most of us are familiar with bullying in one way or another—maybe you were made fun of as a child and those memories come to mind when you hear about mean things said to your own child at school.” and recognized myself in that first statement. My childhood was pretty normal, with only minor taunting and teasing. I can’t remember my own children complaining of more than a few incidents either. I consider us very lucky to have endured the growing up process without endless demoralizing. Fast forward to current times, I wonder if that would have been the case. A number of years ago, there was a commercial on TV that depicted a parent (not shown on screen) yelling mercilessly at their child (represented by fragile eggs). That commercial bothered me and in my conscience I still ‘see it’ today every time I hear about bullying and abuse.
When I hear or read words ravaged from anger they rip me apart. I wonder if all that energy spent on caustic put-downs could be used to far greater advantage if the words were changed to kindness and attitudes to compassion. There are zero advantages to bullying. The bully, though, has no internal compass to direct thoughts of what they say or how they act. If they do have a compass, it seriously needs to be recalibrated. There is no such thing as perfect reactions, we all say things we don’t mean, and all have a thermostat that overheats now and then. Anger is a valid emotion and it rises to the surface at warp speed when the pressure is on and heat reaches the boiling point. Those occasions are resolved with thoughtfulness, confession and forgiveness – but that’s not what I’m talking about here.
The incidence of bullying is raging, more than many of us are aware of. We’ve seen an incremental rise in road rage. Disagreements are solved with defaming words brought out of conversations that were once private to a very public platform through social media. We are no longer able to say, “I disagree with you” without being badgered and emotionally bloodied. When did we become a society that turns the statement, “I disagree with you” into a lethal “I hate you”? Bullying has infiltrated schools, the workplace, and very disturbing – very public and powerful politics. When bullying is brought online, it is no longer between two people or a few people, the tentacles of hurt spread rapidly and the negative effects are rampant. Many years ago, far before personal computers were fixtures in homes and the Internet was only known to the military and educational institutions, I learned the mantra: Before you say it ask: Is it true? Is it encouraging? Is it necessary? That rule has recirculated over and over this past year and has taken on new characteristics, but with the same underlying meaning . Think before you speak and think before you post! There is no longer any assumption of privacy. If you say it – someone will make it public and it is subject to interpretation by individuals with their own filters.
There is no broad spectrum solution to bullying. It goes as far back as Adam and Eve. Bullies will always be with us. They are mean, unethical, cruel, egotistical, deceitful, prideful, and hear me on this – they are insecure. They elevate themselves by putting others down. Period. They are irritable, deeply unhappy and want others to join them in their misery. While easier said than done, I propose that those of us who value integrity and conscience, realize we are in the better position. We need to know ourselves so well and like ourselves enough that we ignore the painful jabs of the bully. If we are in a position to protect someone from bullying or help them overcome the effects of it, step up with confidence and pour into them courage and compassion.
If you’re in the presence of bullies, remember your good qualities and your strengths to deflect feelings of inadequacy and tendency to believe the lies bullies plant in your mind. Write down what you like about yourself. Keep a running list of things you are thankful for. Be proactive and teach calmness and peace to children, grandchildren and even other adults who suffer at the hand of the insensitive and perpetually angry bully.
Being in the presence of bullies is like being at war with the enemy. Build your strong offense first so you can act it out and effect it in your defensive plan. And even though the bully doesn’t deserve it, kill them with kindness. Kindness could even come in the form of ‘no response’ at all. In fact, that “no response at all” could be your best offensive move against the cruel attacks of a bully.
Will yourself to find the good in life. Be joyful – and if you don’t feel joyful, act as if you are joyful until your emotions catch up with your will.
Proverbs 15:15 All the days of the afflicted are troubled and evil, but for those who seek joy and have a cheerful heart, life is a continual feast.