We know them, we live with them or we are one. I’m talking about adult bullies. Up until recently I wouldn’t have even thought to use that word to define their behavior. The word bully conjured up images of the school playground or the girl’s bathroom. But it was recently brought to my attention that the person who has brought me so much grief and stress in my life was not just a pain in my ass but was actually a bully. I a big, grown-up bully who needed to belittle others in order to feel powerful. My entire perspective shifted.
You would think I’d be an exceptional runner considering the many times I ran home from school avoiding the kid who wanted to beat me up. As an adult I have been able to look back at the the kids who bullied me in grade school and completely understand why I was their target. These kids came from unstable homes, living unpredictable lives and found some sense of control by controlling others. I was mentally able to make peace with the attackers and move past the feeling of being victimized.
My recent experience, however, has illuminated the fact that I have not gotten over the fear of being bullied. I’m still a conflict “avoider” and a peacemaker. I’ll be the first to apologize if I have created discord whether it’s real or imagined. I’ve gone so far as to apologize for things I haven’t done just to bring peace to a volatile situation. So in other words my fear of these adult bullies still dictates my behavior. I’m still running home from school. That’s not okay.
The equation changes now that I can see these people for who they are. They are still those same kids from unstable homes with unpredictable lives seeking control BUT they’ve grown up. The worst part is that many of them don’t even realize that their behavior is threatening and controlling. They will say they are standing up for themselves or setting “healthy boundaries.” To me it’s all just psycho-babble for “I’m still a wounded kid who needs love and if you don’t love me then f**k you.”
I’ve found it hard to communicate with adult bullies because they wear their “victimhood” like a badge of courage. The difference between victimization and “victimhood” is that you live in the “hood.” Your history casts a shadow on every aspect of your life. Instead of understanding the underlying cause for the triggers and allowing them to teach you, the victim in the hood points to them as justification for their reactions and behaviors. This is very different from learning, growing and moving on.
You also can’t convince the adult bully that they are worthy of love and compassion. This is an inside job and if they are unable to embrace that frightened wounded child within, love it and nurture it, the adult bully will continue to categorize people into those who are worthy of their attention and those who are unworthy.
Here’s the hard part: love them anyway. Love them regardless of their shitty behavior. Love them simply because they really are worthy even if they don’t know it. Love them despite the fact that they live in the “hood.” I’m not saying throw yourself into the fray. I’m not even saying be their friend! You can send them love and light from afar, but they don’t need your judgements and criticism even though your ego wants to tell them to shut f**k up. You can still love them without surrendering your self-worth.
“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.” ― Michael J. Fox