My oldest son asked me if I thought bullying was worse now than when I was young or are we more sensitive to things that would have been shrugged off in the past? I think that’s a profound question with a complex answer. Before the internet, bullies acted out mostly face to face. The internet enables less physically powerful people to bully too. Facebook, Reddit, Twitter and other social media outlets allow people to spew their venom at will. That changes the definition and our ability to stop bullying. Tripping someone or saying ugly words was not considered serious bullying when I was young. Was it mean and hurtful? Yes, but it wasn’t bullying. That term was reserved for people who were cruel on an ongoing basis.
I couldn’t stop my own bully
In second grade, I moved, enrolled in a new school, and got glasses. I loved my new school and teacher. She praised me for being smart. She gave me challenging work I loved. It was a dream come true, except for Brian. He disliked me and every recess he tormented me, calling me names and making fun of my glasses. He threatened to hurt me when I asked him to stop bullying me. I hated him because he made me feel small and insignificant. I hated him so much, that when he died in a car accident in high school, I felt no sorrow or pain, only relief. As an enlightened adult, I mourn that Brian felt so powerless that he bullied others, and understand Brian must’ve had some issues of his own, but in my teenage brain, I was glad he was gone.
When I needed to stop bullying others
Beyond that. I thought of times I was the bully. I don’t like to admit it, but there are times I pushed others around to get what I wanted through anger and intimidation, especially as a parent. You can read about that in My Worst Parenting Moment. It’s not a pretty place, and I’ve asked my children to forgive me for the mom I used to be. So, why did I do it? Because it works. That’s not an excuse; it’s an explanation. When all else fails, bullying works, but the price is costly. My children were afraid. I was filled with guilt and our family was wounded. These little people I loved did what I asked, not because it was the right thing to do, but because they were afraid of the consequences. I vowed to change, and to stop bullying the people I loved most, and I did.
How do we change things?
Having been on both ends of bullying, here’s what I believe; it’s up to all of us to stop bullying. The times I resorted to bullying, I felt powerless and afraid. Bullying felt like the only way to be heard. Anger replaced powerlessness and fear but the result was guilt for creating that in others. The answer to stopping bullying is simple. Help people feel powerful, loved and connected. Learn it, teach it and be the change. I know it’s possible because I live it. That isn’t some weird, “woo woo” thing. It’s basic humanity. Everyone is valuable. If they aren’t acting that way, it’s because they don’t believe it. This is so simple, powerful and so important, it bears repeating. Every person in this world is as valuable as every other person.
If you believe in a Divine Creator, I hope you learned God loves everyone, not just people who practice your religion. Do you rely on science? If so, we’re all the same energy so it’s in everyone’s best interest to nurture that energy. Whatever your beliefs, learning to see others as valuable teaches you to release the bullies with love and stop bullying anyone. It allows you to release people from your life instead of them overpowering your mind and heart. Sometimes it happens in an instant, and sometimes it takes therapy or police involvement, but whatever it takes, it’s worth it. So release your past bullies including the one in the mirror. Live your best life. Be the best version of you. Envision others at their best and create the world you want to live in one day at a time. If you do encounter a bully, know their behavior results from fear and powerlessness. You have the power to respond kindly. I hope that’s what you choose. If you want help with that, read the book Positive Personality Profiles or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a personal profile consultation. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.
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