Grown-up Bullies

Grown-up Bullies

Some say I need to chill, relax, stop being so uptight, calm down, and a myriad of other catch phrases. They say these things because they see me react to seemingly ‘small’ things in life – often emotionally react and that tends to make them uncomfortable I imagine. I can only imagine because in the moment I am not really paying attention to them but to the circumstances that have gotten me upset in the first place. As I reflect on this characteristic of myself – or perhaps to capture the language of those on the peripheral looking at me – character ‘flaw’ – I don’t land there. I just don’t share their point of view. Instead I believe my reaction to these ‘small’ things is part of the larger psyche that composes who I am – and specifically in the area of bullying.

For those of you who have read my autobiography earlier posts you will remember the years of intense bullying that I endured. One does not simply shake that off as they enter adulthood, there is a resin that remains that lubricates one’s emotional response to the ‘small’ things. I don’t believe this to be a character flaw at all but a heightened sensitivity to a complex social problem that is plaguing humankind. Within the confines of the evangelical christian church the enemy masquerading as a lion seeking to kill and destroy is revealing itself as ‘bullying’ and society has become inundated with bullies – including the church.

I won’t bother picking on the church with this post – to draw attention to the various ways that pastors bully their congregations or others in church leadership bully the congregants into subjugation – that in some sense is too easy a target. My issue is with society as a whole. It is to the driver that cuts you off only to slam on their brakes to make the next turn. It is to the whole host of ‘bad’ drivers that do U-turns at controlled intersections, park too close to driveways, take up multiple parking spots in a parking lot, or ‘coal-roll’ as they speed away from an intersection.

It is to the server or customer service representative that clearly sees you have a question and yet finds a compliment of tasks to do before making their way over to you. It is to the telemarketer with their scripts and power sales lines mixed with their desperation to get the next sale. It is to the postal worker who holds back delivering mail to your home because they don’t like something about your yard.

It is to the co-worker who talks over you or around you at meetings. To the employee who shows up just ‘on time’ but then takes half an hour before they are on the floor and ready to go. It is to the partner who raises their voice to the level needed in order to shut their loved one up.

It is to Donald Trump and all the other world leaders who can easily fall in this guy’s shadow.

Now I view bullying as a three-five year old’s primary tactic in gaining control over their environment. From a developmental point of view this is what we can expect when raising children and since we know that going into it we have developed a lot of different tools in order to help our young child move past this primitive behavioral response into the next healthy stage of social development, which involves complex social relationships – building connections, and the idea of sharing. It is difficult to do but necessary if we are going to set up our child for success.

But, when bullying is not challenged in the young child’s life they grow up to be all of these people. Unfortunately, the tactics and tools available to a parent of that 3-5 year old are simply ineffective when dealing with the teenager who bullies at school or the work place, or the driver who bullies wherever they go, or a public figure whose primary way of communicating is to bully.

My response to those situations that are out of my control – like the driver of the other vehicle is to get upset. It is helpful to state what is bothering oneself – therapeutic actually – and helps move me past the situation into a calmer place. In those situations that I have a measure of control I will say something most times, confront the person or make some sort of stand in order to draw attention to the bullying going on. However, universally the best thing we can collectively do against bullying is to say ‘no’.

‘No’ is the most succinct example of healthy boundaries there is. It is the most effective way to take a stand against bullying and to send a message that their toddler-listic behavior will not work. It tends to evoke the bully to rage, however, if enough of us said ‘no’ collectively, then the false power that they hold over us will dissipate and their bullying will no longer have any effect over us. I need to stress that the chances of the bully not bullying or changing their ways is actually quite low so the real victory here is that the people that were being bullied – you and me – have walked away, leaving the bully standing alone behind a podium yelling at an empty room.

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