In memory of Amanda Todd, a girl I never knew…whose loss I grieve.
In honor of my dance partner, Raymond Wall, born to make music…whom I’ll never forget.
For “Targets” everywhere…who suffer in silence.
Few are the giants of the soul who actually feel that the human race is their family circle.
~Freya Stark, explorer and writer
It isn’t about you. Please hear me.
Some people just feel taller standing on the backs of others.
What feels so devastating to you in the moment is nothing but a mindless sport to your opponent. It has everything to do with them—hungering for a sense of power that they are unable to feel on their own.
Their conduct has everything to do with choice.
Most people think of bullies as the schoolyard variety. They assume that adults leave childish behaviors behind. We don’t think much about adult bullies unless we find ourselves –or someone dear– on the receiving end of their self-loathing.
Adult Bully. It sounds like a contradiction of terms. It pretty much is. Adult is usually equated with the word mature and there is nothing mature about a bully of any age. So what do you call a grown-ass person who has chosen to bully? When I pick word meanings apart, the best I can come up with is full grown bully.
I never knew what it felt like to be the target of a bully. Not until I was in my 30’s. I don’t speak of it often. But for now, I will.
Someone out there needs a kindred spirit. I feel it in my bones.
Forget, for a minute, about wife-beaters, faded jeans and the requisite can of Bud. Most attacks at this stage of the game won’t be physical. They are verbal. Psychological.
The sense of power derived is short lived because a pseudo power never yields long-term satisfaction…but it is the best they’ve felt about themselves in God knows how long, so they pounce when opportunity presents itself again with the anticipation of a tweeker looking for the next high.
Maybe your full grown bully has the appearance of someone who feels good about themselves, dons the immaculate head-to-toe white collar ensemble… but has an unshakeable narcissism that seems to require putting others down.
Full grown bullies often get paid well for putting others down. They are celebrated for it.
Maybe your bully is one whose greatest advantage is their subtlety…so skilled at what they do it would be damn near impossible to prove or document. They are passive-aggressive in their delivery. Backhanded. Usually female.
But the truth is that people do see.
Some of those people fall right in and become drones. A vehicle with no pilot. Chances are that they’d never dream of initiating such behavior, but they notice. Maybe you’ve never been anything but kind to this person—never hurt them nor offended them– but at some point, they choose to side with the one they perceive to be the most powerful. Isn’t it sad how people mistake kindness for weakness? Secondary bullies are concerned more than anything–with protecting themselves.
The others who see? This is the silent majority. By choice, they provide the world with a never-ending supply of passive bystanders. They give their unspoken consent by saying…nothing. For this reason, more than any other, bullying has become an ongoing, ever-increasing, socially acceptable behavior.
When a schoolyard/ mean girl bully becomes a full grown bully, there really isn’t anything you can do other than to ignore them or avoid them. They have no interest in working things out. They have no interest in compromise. Their primary interest is power and domination; to feel important and preferred. They accomplish this by bringing others down. It is what they do best.
Of all the awesome things in this world to do well…growing beautiful gardens, feeding people delicious meals, constructing impressive buildings, re-vamping a worn-out community, making music, being the best parent you can be, making someone’s day a little sweeter…they choose, instead, to destroy.
With intention, they set out to inflict pain. They diminish, ignore, humiliate, and render their chosen target insignificant.
But you are not insignificant anymore than they are powerful.
Their psychological shortcomings have absolutely nothing to do with you.
Here’s the thing: You have to save yourself. Even in a world filled with people standing by, the giants of the soul are out there lifting cars off of people with their bare hands. Those are the super-heroes of the world and when just one of those super-heroes jumps into action, others follow, never doubting for a second that they can lift 5000 pounds of dead weight off of their fellow human trapped underneath. And they do.
The passive bystanders are in a big sandbox somewhere with their feet poking out, pitifully safe. Not a place you’d ever want to find yourself trapped underneath a vehicle. Not a place you’d ever want to be when you are the chosen target of a bully.
If you are lucky, like me, you can walk away. I wasn’t bullied in school or the workplace. My situation was in a setting where I had complete freedom to walk away. So after a decade, I did. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. There was so much sweetness waiting on the other side. Divine appointments, people who needed what I had to offer, and still others who were there to heal my soul.
On the other side were the super-heroes. Kind-hearted people who make waking each day a joy.
I love waking up. With each new sunrise, God delivers two offerings without fail and tucks them right underneath my pillow: brand new mercies and the gift of free will. What we do with those gifts for the rest of the day…is up to us.
We get to choose.
And that, right there…is enough to make me want to wear a cape.
Stay with me. Let’s fly.
There is something beautiful about all scars of whatever nature. A scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed and healed, done with.
~Harry Crews, novelist and playwright