Beliefnet
How Great Thou Part

If you look up the word ‘bully’ in the dictionary the words to not do the term justice.

I believe a bully is a person who takes out their pain on another human being.

A degree of bullying is to be expected in life. It is a part of the complex journey of enough conflict and suffering to shape us and produce more empathy, boundaries, and internal growth.

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I am not excusing bullying especially not extreme cases. Quite the contrary, what I am attempting to say is our parents left us on the playground to figure it out just as they did the unfair teacher, the bad grade, and the broken heart.

Not because they didn’t care but because they weren’t there. 

So they counseled us rather than rescued us. They told us how to deal with the mean girl and the bully and the rogue. They gave us tips on how to navigate life.

In a way, they were genius and even smarter than some of us today. Why? Because you can’t fight city hall. You can’t fight a bully. They come from that infrastructure. You can’t conquer an extremely difficult personality. You can only be accountable for your own actions. You can only seek to empower yourself to make them less powerful.

While you may believe I am trivializing bullying.

You couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, an intimate experience with bullying actually brought about a positive result in someone I know. In the years to follow, they were in the right place at the right time to help someone else.

And my own marriage counselor has described my divorce as a bullying climate.

Therefore, I understand and have experienced bullying.

Counselors will tell you there are all types of bullies and they are not just relegated to childhood. Their are workplace bullies, spousal bullies and more. It makes sense, after all, the bullying child grows into a bullying adult.

The other day, I met a stranger bully.

I sat in the coffee shop cleaning out my inbox. The “You’ve Got Mail” sounded. I know so archaic, right? I still keep a contraband AOL account for certain correspondence. I was nearly finished when I clicked on a forty-five-second video with background music.

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I suddenly see a woman charging towards me while yelling.

Nothing like a bit of public humiliation to wake a person up in the morning. I can’t remember all that she said since her anger was intensely distracting. Suffice it to say, she felt I had been behaving rudely.

Her words and body language were so aggressive I began to shake. 

I am an extrovert, a leader, and no shrinking violet. The youngest of five children, I can hold my own when the situation demands it. To intimidate me to the point of shaking was nothing more than simple bullying.

Ironically, this woman believed my rude behavior deserved equally as rude behavior with a dose of threatening anger on top.

For the past ten years, my friends call the local coffee shop my office and the staff my co-workers. I like to work there when I can’t concentrate at home. Just illustrating how typically aware I am of my actions. It’s not my hangout – it’s my workplace. On this particular morning, I was both tired and distracted. Hence, I wasn’t as aware as I typically am.

I was so shocked at my own shaking, the leader in me rose up. I collected myself and walked outside the shop to address the woman. 

She wasted no time in reinforcing her belief that my behavior had been rude.

I told the woman she needed to reflect before going after another individual like that. I also told her you never know what is going on in a person’s life. All kinds of things cause distracted behavior. She was in full swing and did not back down.

She told me I didn’t know what was going on in a person’s life either and she had suffered a loss the day before.

But of course, I knew that. Not the loss specifically, but that she was most definitely taking out her pain on a stranger.

I told her I lost both my parents at a young age and I didn’t leave my house and go out into the world and mistreat people.

Enabling Colleen from just a few years ago would have amped up into an overly empathetic mode. However, what you learn in counseling is there is zero excuse for this type of bad behavior. A grown adult in pain needs to address that pain not direct it at others.

I tell my marriage counselor about the experience.

He tells me something which I already know. It was not just the woman I am taking on that day, it is also my husband.

Either way, I feel partially restored and empowered. I am using my cumulative youth and playground experiences to rise up.

Surprisingly, in retrospect, I would deal with both situations quite differently.

I wouldn’t have let my husband turn me into someone who became a yeller and I wouldn’t have said those words to the stranger bully. Poking the bear doesn’t take away their pain. It intensifies it. Exposing them doesn’t shut them down because there’s always going to be a like-minded bully or enabling family member or friend standing beside them supporting them.

Whether the bully is a child or an adult, they are attempting to use their pain to make themselves feel powerful by making another feel powerless.

I would no longer spar with them.

Instead, I would render them powerless by saying, “I’m sorry you are in pain but I won’t allow you to direct your pain my way.”

I will not preach any beleaguered anti-bullying rhetoric at the scared dog in the corner. I realize it doesn’t work. It just makes them take a bite out of me and not let go.

But I want to be free. I will leave them to their own pain and their own truth.

So I can live my own truth without absorbing theirs.

FOOTNOTE:

In all of my defiant emancipation, I must admit old habits die hard. After taking on the stranger bully I avoided the coffee shop for more than a week. My co-workers (ha ha) and friends inquired about my whereabouts. “Oh, I’m avoiding the woman who yelled at me,” I said. Okay, so I still don’t like conflict and will avoid it when I can but I am growing and making strides.

(Photos courtesy of Pexels)

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