I have been thinking more on the issue of bullies, and the recent spate of Luann comics settled it. (See the March 2 comic, and read backward if you're not familiar with the teenager Luann and her friends.)
There are bullies in all of our lives -- whether we're threatened by one, or we're one ourselves. For me, it was the Holbrook girls, who ran havoc over the school bus. (Hey -- we should have sent them after Osama bin Laden..they would have cleaned his clock in minutes. These girls were scary.) In middle school, it was a group of cheerleader princesses and their hangers-on. And in high school...well, I was lucky. Didn't have any to deal with there, perhaps because I was so busy trying to keep up with schoolwork, band, Madrigals...and working every day but Thursday at the hardware store.
And with both the Holbrooks and the hangers-on (Lisa VanderWerff, are you still out there?? You may not remember this as vividly as I do), it came down to this:
I didn't back down.
For one thing, I called their bluffs. In the open, in public. (Bullies love the shadows and little secluded corners -- it makes them feel even more powerful.)
For another, I didn't punch or threaten them. I just said I wasn't going to cooperate. Play ball, as it were. And I said it point blank, in public, where others could hear me.
Sure, they threatened back -- particularly the oldest Holbrook girl, who said the next time I rode the bus, she was going to wipe up the aisle with me. Expressed in very choice words, complete with a few swear words I'd never heard before.
Was I terrified next day? You bet. Did anything happen?
Nope. And nothing the day after, and after...
Bullies don't like to perform their nasty games in public, in front of a crowd, if you're standing up to them. It makes them seem little and petty. True, sometimes you do get beat up. (That's the way life is, sadly.) And you will have nasty words said to you. But -- and I know this from experience -- you will be stronger. And the bullies will be exposed -- publicly exposed -- for the cowards they really are.
Sometimes you do have to fight back. Daughter #2 was being kicked in the shins regularly by a boy in elementary school. Finally, after a few weeks of this (and the teachers either refusing to do anything, or suggesting she'd made it up), I told her to kick him back.
I then got a phone call from the Vice Principal, asking if I'd told my daughter to do that. (Obviously the bully had gone whining to the nearest teacher, and Daughter had answered honestly.)
"Yes!" I said. "This little boy has been kicking our daughter for weeks now, and he's been allowed to keep doing it."
"Well, Mrs. Brick," the principal said sternly. "We don't advocate violence around here."
But that boy never kicked Daughter again. (No one else did, either.)
Are you dreading having to deal with some bullies right now in your own life? Face them -- in public, preferably. Tell them they no longer have control over your life. Don't threaten them back-- that's stooping to their level. Don't attack. The point is: you have better things to do with your time and energy than waste it on these people.
They're just not worth it.
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