Saturday, January 18, 2020

bully victims, fight back, but don't become the bully

Bullying is defined as "abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful, etc. : the actions and behavior of a bully." (Merriam-Webster). Verbally, they use manipulation, lies, put-downs, cold-shoulders, talking behind the victim's back, whining/complaints, belittling, stealing attention, using higher or perceived higher status to get their way, etc. Physically, they shove, punch, steal, take over space, etc. The worst is when they do it with simple body language and don't have to say/write a word. Women tend to use the language methods and men the physical, although both span all forms.

When I was young, I was often the target of bullies, usually boys. I was small, meek, wore glasses (still do), and was a brainy girl who preferred being a tomboy. I had two younger brothers close to my age, so the latter isn't much of a surprise.

I didn't fit into any mold but was who I was. I was always awkward socially, which made me an easy target. On the bus, in school, you name it. Bullies surrounded me from my earliest school days to my last. My parents always told me to ignore them and they would eventually give up interest. The problem was that they never did.

I often cried and I did have suicidal thoughts. Life was hard. But I had my faith and that kept me going. I knew that, even when I went through the stage of puberty when parents are always wrong and don't understand (or at least as teens, we think we know better--life and experience teaches us how wrong we are), that Jesus didn't want me to give up. I will say that that was the only way I kept going.

Not until I started fighting back/standing up against the bullies did I ever see any relief. I had to fight against them time and again, and I gained some confidence as I did, although I was always told that to do so was wrong and I feared getting into trouble. But I'd had enough and was determined not to let the bullies win. Yielding felt like losing to me. Yes, I got into trouble a couple of times. And it seems that kids today who fight back still do--some things never change. However, it doesn't take much for bullies in school to give up and find a new victim to harass once you start standing up against them. They fear losing their power and want an easy target, a victim not a fighter.

You know what? That fighting back made me more confident, if only a little at a time. I didn't give them the power over me that they wanted. Maybe the toughness was started from dealing with two younger brothers who constantly pestered me when we were young, but that was only a start--good ol' sibling rivalry. (Things changed as my brothers matured, but hindsight is 20/20.) And I changed. I had the mental scars, but I also gained resilience for the greater challenges in life that were to come. As for those bullies, once I was out of school, they lost their power. Some might have gone into jobs that gave them power, but that doesn't last for them. The real world is quite an eye-opener.

The point of this is to say you can't see that at the time that things will work out, but if you hang in there, you will be stronger. It feels like the end of the world. Don't give in. Fight back, but beware going too far and becoming that which you despise. Too many people take it too far and become the totalitarians of tomorrow or want to bubble wrap everyone. Neither is the answer.

As a result, we have become a soft society--wanting someone else to fight our fights or to be cushioned from any hardship. I have news for you--LIFE ISN'T EASY. Each person must learn to cope in their own life. No one can live your life for you. Know your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses. Learn to take matters into your hands and stand up for yourself. If you don't start, you'll never develop the strength to get through life.

When we're young, every little thing feels like the end of the world, because we don't have the life experience to compare to what real struggle is. Just wait until you're out on your own, barely making ends meet, struggling with rent and transportation and budgeting for food, gas, clothes, and maybe entertainment while going to school. THAT is a real struggle. You won't know until you've lived through difficulties just how strong you can be. The key is living through it.

It does get better, especially when you learn the right coping skills through experience and training and gain confidence in yourself by confronting the difficulties. Bullies are encountered at every stage of life, and they learn to be more manipulative and subtle in adulthood. I've worked with them, but it was because of my resilience and the scars earned by dealing with them in my youth that I survived them in adulthood. After leaving those jobs, I have encountered them and realized how pathetic they are. There's one thing I've learned at every stage--they are bullies because they are insecure. Pity them and move on. Know that if you can't fight them on fair terms, their ways will eventually get them in trouble and you won't have to sully your reputation or conscience to have that satisfaction.

Being a survivor and overcoming the bullying is your revenge. Don't give in. Fight back when you can without becoming them. Be better and keep your chin up. Bullies are pathetic, insecure people. But BEWARE-- In this age of the internet, people can be shamed online and mobbed for perceived bad behavior, but that is never the answer and there is always more to the story than you may realize (both online and IRL). One who gets online revenge can also be the victim of such acts. And it only taints your conscience by becoming that which is despised. Two wrongs don't make a right, as my grandma always said.

Fight back against bullies, but don't become them. And when you see them later in life, thank them for teaching you to be strong. There's no better revenge than success!

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