When I look back at my formative years, I am not sure there is too much that I am extremely proud of. As the years went by a lot of things seemed to change as happens with most people. Some seemed to improve, such as my ability to use humor in a constructive and healing way. Some things seemed to go in the opposite direction. When I was in third grade the teacher kept my stories when the year was over because she liked them so much (This is true. My mother will vouch for me) By my senior year in high school my English teacher informed me she prayed to God I would never have a career in writing. Some things didn’t change. Once, on a Facebook post people were asked what they remembered about me. A lot of them said my hair, but some said that I always seemed positive and nice. (who would have guessed I could’ve turned that into a career) In my yearbooks people made mention that I was always questioning everything and that I asked too many questions. I guess that didn’t change either.
One thing I am very proud of is that I never heard I was a bully to anyone. In my memory, I never thought of myself above anyone. There was enjoyment to be had in the company of almost everyone I am came in contact with. The same holds true of me as an adult. I do my best to find the good in every person I meet. There are a few who make me work harder than others. If I can’t find something to like in someone I find that to be my failure, not theirs.
Growing up all kids were not like me. I am grateful for that or it would have been pretty boring. Unfortunately, some kids were bullies. Especially when I was very young, there were kids I would dread even seeing and do my best to avoid. As I grew older I realized the best way to avoid having to deal with bullies is confront them. Not in a physical way, but by realizing bullies are generally people who have more problems than those they attack. It is by accenting the flaws of others they hope to hide flaws of their own. In many ways their insults and hurtful behavior are nothing more than a cry for help. This is hard to imagine, especially as a young child whose last name resembles that of a Disney character. When I would confront them it would usually be with a question as to why they say such unpleasant things. I would often follow that up with a compliment, which is what most bullies crave most of all. I would say something like, “I really admire your _____ and can’t understand why you feel the need to be so mean.” Even if that didn’t stop the action at that moment it usually provided food for thought at the next encounter.
As I started to mention earlier, I did not have much trouble with bullies. In part, I guess that was because I genuinely cared for everyone, even most of the bullies. When I ask you how things are going, I stop and listen to the answer. It was hard to pick on someone who cared about your well-being. I also understood that usually their cruel actions were nothing more than a thinly veiled mask for their own insecuries. I would usually find something good about them and pay them a compliment. Many times instead of picking on me they would open up and share some of their issues with me. I enjoyed helping even if it was just really listening to what they had to say. I truly hoped by relieving some of their pains, it may reduce the pain they inflicted on others.
Well, that is all done and over with now that I am older right? Wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. I recall when I first started working for the United States Postal Service. In the office I worked there was an undertone of anger and hostility. Some of the rudest most insulting people were sad and lonely. In the world of being a DJ, I see it every night. Add alcohol to the mix and people’s insecurities are heightened that much further. The more insecure they feel? You guessed it, the more they seem to take it out on others. Some do not even realize they are doing it.
The sad part is they never healed from childhood. What they have failed to realize is that the pain they are inflicting cannot help them at all. Sure it may feel good in the short term. It may even hide some of their flaws they are so afraid of revealing. What it will not do is help them heal. Sadly, the effect it has on those they act out against can also be negatively life-transforming. It also trickles down. When they hurt others, those people either withdraw or then go on to hurt others. If you extrapolate this over time, the trend and amount of bullies will only increase.
Why are some children and some adults so mean and cruel? I believe the answer can be found in two words – fear and ignorance. It can be scary to face our own insecurities, much less share them with someone who may be able to help us. That takes a great amount of courage. What takes less and almost no courage is to find someone we perceive as weaker or in a lower social standing and put them down to make ourselves feel better. At the end of the day when we are in our beds, those actions will only intensify our feelings of guilt and inadequacy. The other side of the coin is ignorance. Even if we develop the courage to express ourselves, to show others our faults and be very strong as to ask for help with them, how do we do that? Those answers are best left to professionals and can be as complex as the people asking them and the problems. What we can do to help stem and stop the spread bullying is to be kind to everyone we meet and make an effort to listen to and provide a safe space for people to share their feelings and problems. I am going to leave you with a quote from one of my favorite philosophers to end this on an uplifting note.