RESIST BULLIES

Photo Credit: Malik Earnest

Some people can only feel a sense of self-worth by taking it away from someone else. I believe the quickest way to find the emotionally weakest person in the room is to find the one claiming to be the strongest. In reality, the strongest of us don’t need to boast. If a person has to belittle someone to feel power over them, they have much deeper issues at play.

It’s true that our primal brains want a hierarchy in our society. We developed as a “survival of the fittest,” “alpha and beta” animal early on and there’s still a powerful part of our brain that doesn’t want to let that go. Sure, we’ve adapted it to fit modern day culture with racism, sexism, elitism, etc., but it’s still the same thing: people with a need to feel that they’re “better” than someone else. Of course, those same people think money, skin color, or genitals are the defining factor which is just fucking stupid.

Bullies aren’t limited to schools; they’re everywhere. People bully and are bullied throughout their lives no matter where they go or what they do. It’s just part of human nature baked in from our evolution, but to evolve as a species, we have to have enough self-awareness to rise above it. The only person I ever want to be “better than” is myself from yesterday. I can’t think of a single thing that puts me “above” anyone else for any reason, except maybe assholes who physically or emotionally harm others.

I was bullied in school, sure. I was a theater and band kid in a football town. I also bullied someone once in a fleeting moment that I’m sure he forgot years ago but that memory, coated with remorse, has followed me since. It wasn’t even that mean, and if done to me now, I’d probably laugh it off, but it was my intent at the time that sticks with me. The fact that I intended to cause discomfort to someone else because of my own need for some sort of dominance under the guise of humor, was a poor excuse for trying to somehow balance the bullying I was receiving.

As parents, we pass on traits to our kids. We pass on beliefs and habits, and bullies are no exception. As easy as it is to hate bullies, it’s important to remember that they are most likely products of abuse themselves. This in no way forgives them for what they do, but it should help us in handling their behavior. My sons are at an age where they’re just beginning to realize they have a “place” in the world and I’m doing everything I can to help them realize that even if it’s not always a level playing field, empathy is far more important than any perceived “power” over others. That doesn’t make strength any less essential, but only bullies and people who live in fear will argue strength over empathy.

Now, in the digital world, a new level of anonymity has taken bullying from a problem on the playground (or the corporate office) to a problem around the world. Some bastard in another country can bully you without any repercussions, and I won’t lie, that sucks. However, I will say that it seems most online bullies are just people who’ve been bullied and know that behind a keyboard, with no face, anyone can beat up another no matter how strong or weak they are in real life. It’s a fucked up version of pay it forward.

This may not seem like much of a habit, but more of a personality trait. However, I believe habits are the best way to change those traits we dislike about ourselves and gain new ones that make us proud of who we are. If you learn to spot the moments when you feel small and need to do something to prove yourself, you can prevent yourself from acting on that feeling against someone else. On the other hand, if you learn to spot the actions of those bullying yourself or another, you gain a better understanding of that person and can adapt your approach to resolving the issue. By the way, if you’re a bully, it’s not me versus you, and it’s never too late to stop.

I can’t leave this article without a note to my younger readers, specifically those in high school and younger. They say it gets better. I promise you it does, even if that currently feels impossible. If you’re being bullied, seek help from anyone who’ll listen. Sometimes, we feel the need to keep it quiet to prevent retribution or because we feel some strange need to protect our bully. Fuck that. You don’t owe them shit. And don’t let them take any more away from you than they already have. That includes your life and who you are. In a few years, they’ll be forgotten, and you’ll still be incredible. You show those fuckers. Don’t do anything that can’t be undone. Get help if you need it. Stay strong.

I’ll just leave these here in case anyone needs them.

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