Adult bullies…yes High School never leaves our midst does it?
We’ve been doing a lot of work recently putting together some really great assemblies for several schools for the month of February. One of our schools has asked us to talk about ‘Respect’ since that is their schools campaign for the year.
Understanding and practicing respect of course is an essential missing link to changing the way kids are treating each other much of the time. Bullies are growing in numbers. The topic of respect grows perfectly out of our foundation of ‘being an irreplaceable person that can not live without the other’. We need healthy communities, whether that is our family, friends, schools or neighborhoods to function as we are meant to in this journey called life.
But it can be hard to be bold enough to choose good people to be around, especially as a teen. Bullies are everywhere. So we added to the assemblies some great thoughts Emily shared with us that came from a paper she wrote at school comparing Aristotle and CS Lewis on friendship. There really is no measure to the value of a good friend in life. Knowing what makes a good friend and choosing wisely is an important life skill. You can’t put a value on a friend who will encourage you to grow and be your best while putting up with your nonsense and lovingly supporting you anyway. You will become who you surround yourself with, choose wisely.
But that said, it really isn’t possible to be friends with everyone. People are unique and different. They have different interests and values, there will be people you just don’t like. And, there will be people who don’t like you. BUT, not liking someone doesn’t excuse you from being kind and respectful to everyone.
How ironic that Chip and I found out this week we were the topic of some juicy and yet very damaging gossip. ..actually slander. Adult bullying in my book. A little bit of jealousy or competition perhaps, we’re not sure. What ever the reason for the rumor to start doesn’t matter. The lies need to be stopped before we, our children or YCNBR is damaged.
Our first response was of course to contact our lawyer because the accusation is actually that we’ve committed a federal offense using donation money for Hurricane Sandy relief for our own expenses. Her response was very wise, that gives great comfort and protection. But realistically we can do nothing. The words have been said, they have been shared and sadly there are people who have never spoken with us who just might believe it. It’s an unfortunate side of human nature.
Anyone who knows Chip and I wouldn’t entertain the thought that we would steal. 100% of the donations we have received have been distributed almost as soon as we get them with consultations from our financial team. The rumor is a lie as my good friend reminded me. We know the truth, and the truth stands by itself. But, even knowing how false the comments are, they really bothered me, have stuck with me and kept me up all night.
My first response is real sadness. Here is a community murmuring about us while we have committed countless hours to create a better environment for their children. In addition to YCNBR we have spent 90 long days and sleepless nights, 7 days a week, on hurricane relief. For us, it has been an honor for people to allow us into their lives and help them in their time of great need. But if you’re not doing the work you might not have the same perspective. To hear that people out there just can’t believe we are authentic probably shouldnt surprise me. It must be hard to imagine that we don’t have selfish and ulterior motives to someone who doesn’t know us. But even understanding human nature, the comments make me very sad and have left me a bit defeated. The bully has amazing power with that small muscle in their mouth.
My second response is going to their homes (I know who they are); have a friend hold them down, and kick them in the teeth! That is one sure way to stop the idle chatter. But of course, I know better. I have a knack for understanding the broken human person so I understand the nonsense. I don’t like it, but I understand.
I have always had a heart for the bully; the kid in school who was always in trouble, the mean girl- the one who was probably prom queen but terribly insecure and therefore mean. I know they probably were not good enough for their parents, maybe even a little neglected. Probably as an adult their control issues have suffocated their families ironically leaving them lonely and unfulfilled. I know that control comes from fear of loss, sadness or maybe even lack of faith. The adult bully who expends their energy breaking down others is no different from the child who bullies. I do feel sorry for them.
Let me take a minute to talk specifically about women. Women have a great gift of bonding with the people in their lives creating strong relationships while they help, teach and encourage. John Paul II refers to this gift as the ‘Mystery of the Feminine Genius’. We connect and give of ourselves forming bonds that are truly special. Friendship for women, especially those without sisters, is an essential part of the journey. But women also have ability to use those gifts to be destructive.
The gift of the ability to nurture is why women believe gossip, and that’s why it can be so dangerous. The bond women have with one another causes them to trust. That trust in the friend causes us not to question whether or not something is truth. Its one reason why I stay guarded myself and choose very carefully who I spend the little time I have with. I can’t stand a woman who will tear down a friend or husband, it makes me uncomfortable. I choose to be with women who are honest, genuine and encourage me to be a better version of myself. You will become who you surround yourself with, choose wisely.
How do we make a change? How do we STOP the adult bully? We all know these women, every town has many of them, not just one or two. We could stop the conversation, not continue to engage, stick up for the person in question… But the bully will just go to the next person and tell their tale. The rush of the ‘knowing’ a juicy bit that the others don’t is addictive and gives them purpose.
I don’t believe that there are ‘just plain mean adult women’ anymore than I believe that there are kids out there are ‘just plain bad’. I know in my heart of hearts that those kids are hurting and needing to feel in control of something. If you take a kid bully and give them a purpose and some responsibility they blossom! We help them be a better version of themselves. We help them by drawing out and giving power to the good in them.
So what do we do as adults when the bully is one of our peers? I think the answer is same. We give them something of substance, a bit of ourselves and an opportunity to grow. We show them kindness and encourage them to be something better than they are settling for. We show them love. We have the opportunity to be a great influence, we are the ones they have chosen to spend their time with.
UCK right? Hard to do when you don’t like someone or they’ve hurt you.
Here’s my challenge. I want you all to think. Who comes to mind? Who has hurt you? Who has done damage to your reputation, hurt your children or your husband?
I’m going to ask you to take a leap. Take a leap of faith out and beyond yourself to the bully.
This week, choose one person who came to mind. Not a close dear friend, that would be easy. But one who has been sand paper in your life. Make an intentional move to do something kind for them. Leave a really good book; not a racey novel but a good solid life changing book on their door step. Or ask them to come volunteer with you, or how about banana bread, flowers a word of encouragement or dare I say a note of forgiveness? Reach out to that broken soul and show them some love.
It doesn’t matter if they
reject the act, or refuse the kindness. Let that ‘sandpaper person’ make you smoother.
While there is still a part of me that would love to do some teeth kicking, and I have some friends that would join me, I want to see a change. I want my children to grow up in a community where the girls are kind to one another, not nasty. We all know nasty girls grow up to be nasty women while the nice girls grow up to be nice women. Lets raise nice women who support one another and encourage each other to be their best. Lets raise kids who are the definition of a good friend.
How will that change happen? Only if we go to the core of the bully and love them out of it.