Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Thing About Bullies

*This is an older blog post that I'm reposting for a friend who is dealing with a bully. Thought it might help those of you who are dealing with bullies too.*

Most of my life I have dealt with various bullies by either trying to stay under their radar or by trying to kill them with kindness. What heart of stone could resist my continuously applied sweetness and light? Surely I could tame the savage beast and hence be special enough for the bully to be kind to me and bully anyone who messed with me.

Turns out that's exhausting and doesn't actually give you much in return. I don't know about you, but I don't have people messing with me very often. Besides, it's usually the bully in question who is messing with me, so what's the point of befriending him in the first place?

Lately, I've had enough of bullies and I've been speaking up for myself. Of course the conflict riles me up and stresses me out. I prefer that everyone be nice, including me. But enough is enough. Turns out being a doormat just encourages bullies to wipe their feet on you.

So the other day I dressed down a bully. Oh, I went in for the kill. I sliced and diced the bully with the long knives of a verbal ninja and the bully didn't know what hit him. I was mostly stunned by how easy it was. When I actually lashed out and took the bully to task, he had nothing to say. It was almost like slapping around a baby. He fell apart under the truth being hurled at him, no holds barred, no filter, just the brutal truth. One after the other. Brutal truth punches left and right.

It wasn't nice. It wasn't pretty. And he probably felt completely emasculated and like a ginormous loser after I was done with him. I imagined I would feel really bad about it after all was said and done, but oddly, I felt empowered. Emboldened. "Don't mess with me." Hells yeah!

Kinda like a bully, right? I worried about that. Had I just turned into the aggressor? No, I was merely holding the line, announcing that I have boundaries and they will not be crossed. Bullies like to leap over your boundaries and then slap you in the face. This particular bully once knocked me around a parking lot and I had to get a restraining order to make sure he didn't leap over that boundary again.

And he hasn't.

That's the trouble with bullies. We want them to be reasonable. We want them to be good, to simply obey the rules so everyone can live in peace. I don't want any trouble. I just want to be left alone. But nooooo.

Yet the guilt persisted. Was I now the bully? The bully had called ME a bully and that threw me off, I admit it. Doormats aren't accustomed to being called bullies. We want people to like us. And to have clean feet. So I did a little Internet research on how to deal with a bully.

It didn't help.

In column after column I read about how it is best to avoid conflict with a bully. (Duh.) Article after article spelled out how the bully is actually a very psychically fragile being. A bully is merely the gruff mask to a terribly insecure ego. Wracked with insecurities, they lash out in order to protect their tiny, tiny egos.

Some articles went on to say that you should encourage the bully and praise the bully for what they do right and not mention where they fall short. Are you kidding me? If that's not a co-dependent and dysfunctional relationship I don't know what is. Jesus.

So should I praise the bully when he stops grabbing me by the arms and banging my head against the wall?

"Thanks for stopping your attack! That was really nice of you and showed a lot of restraint! Good job!"

Screw that. I may be trying to progress along the Buddhist path, but I'm thinking the Buddha wouldn't think I was showing myself compassion if I let a bully continue to scare me. So I looked around a little more, ignored the self-help writers and went straight for the politicians.

This is what I found:

"If you let a bully come in your front yard, he'll be on your porch the next day and the day after that he'll rape your wife in your own bed."    

- Lyndon B. Johnson

That's what I'm talking about. I'm not a bully. I'm not prancing all over someone else's lawn. I'm just telling one asshat to stay off mine.


  1. Your bully sounds like more than just a bully.

    I have few regrets in life, but one of them is the time a couple buddies and I locked a kid in a dog run and squirted him with a garden hose. We might have been bullies. More like just a bunch of assholes.

    Your bully sounds like a criminal. Obviously I'm ignorant to the details. I'm glad you fought back.

  2. No, he's no longer a physical threat to me. The PPO scared him off of that for good, I believe.

    But I still have to hold the line and keep the boundaries well-defined.

    Containment, you know.

  3. Thank goodness I don't have to deal with bullies much, but I do appreciate that you were able to stand up to him, Bravo!

  4. I still feel somewhat ambivalent about it, to be honest. I prefer to let things go, or it seems more "right" to just let things go. Hard to know when to stand up and say "No" and when to just let it slide.

    "All wrong-doing arises because of mind. If mind is transformed can wrong-doing remain?" --the Buddha

  5. A bully is not reasonable - he is persuaded only by threats.
    Marie De France, 12th Century

    When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)

  6. The Emerson quote perfectly describes my experience!

  7. Bully for you!

    (I apologize profusely for this comment in advance. Off my meds. Couldn't be helped.)

  8. I experience bad puns as a form of literary bullying.

    *Shoves Kurt*

  9. He started it. That's all I'm sayin'.

  10. Kurt... that was my line.. bastard. I'm ready the 600 page bio of Teddy... and now I got nothing.

    Mandy... (insert lame pun here)

  11. The advice from "experts" sounds more like advice you'd give to children. It doesn't work for them, either.

  12. You are not a bully.

    I'm glad you finally told him how teeny tiny his penis really is because we all know there was a wee bit of truth in that statement. ;)

    There is a difference between a bully and an abuser, and I suspect your "bully" crosses that line. I hope that he will not cross your line as often anymore.

  13. Bullying to me is a form of bad communication. Much like differing languages, if you don't understand it, the other person speaking it accomplishes nothing.

    Violence is its own language, be it volume, aggression, or physical. The bully figures they'll do the 'communicating' and you won't be able to 'communicate' back. You went at them with the volume & aggression and they heard you, loud and clear.

  14. It's good to hear your *bully* is no longer a physical threat. It is much more satisfying to deconstruct someone verbally.

    No, I don't think you are a bully for standing up for yourself. That is a dirty, unfair argument. Then again, coming from your bully, not a very valid argument...

  15. I think the only peace we'll ever have in this life is that which we make for ourselves. Brava to you for clearing your path to go in peace! ~OM

  16. @mel heth: rock solid comment.

    @soccer milf: you caught me. most of the articles are for dealing with bullies on the playground, bullies you live with, or bullies you work with. none of these applied to me.

    @megan: i plead the fifth.

    @svaha: you are correct. I did communicate in a language a bully could understand.

    @dave grassi: particularly when you combat them with the truth.

    @OM: namaste, chicky. still working on it.

  17. "Hard to know when to stand up and say "No" and when to just let it slide."

    I hear you. Where to draw the line. 6yo has been bullied at school. Teaching her to stand up for herself. To draw HER line.

    Bravo to you!

  18. I was bullied at school. It was physical and psychological and one day, enough was enough. I was only 12, I didn't know how to turn the other cheek. But I did slap hers.

    And she never did it again.

  19. Ugh. I hate bullies. They usually smell bad and can't dress for shit. So good on ya. And, you know, if all else fails, there's always Smith & Wesson. Works every time.

  20. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to hit back. Wishing a bully away doesn't have a high success rate.

  21. Good for you. You did the right thing. Also, as I read you story, a sense of pride emerges
    and Satisfaction...
    you are on a roll...


  22. @wwtda: I used to have a bully on the playground when I was a kid, and the bullies never leave you alone until you throw a punch back. At least that was my experience.

    @Foxxx: Isn't it interesting how all those informational sites on bullying suggest all these paths of nonviolence, when the think we all learned as kids was to pop 'em back once and then they left us alone? Damn, this is not helping with my increased buddha-study of late!

    @Moi: Continuing on the theme of violence. Oh what have I unleashed with this blog! ;-)

    @Richard: That whole "wishing" thing really hasn't worked out well for anything I've applied it to. Damn that Jiminy Cricket. He sold us a packetful of lies!

    @Raao: Thank you.

    @Cookie: Did you just call me a fish?

  23. Ugh! Sometimes it seems like
    I'm a bully magnet. It's almost funny how many of them become intimidated when they learn that they can't intimidate me. I basically get revenge by just standing there, looking at them, in silence, watching them as they realize that they are making an ass of themselves. - (A dude named) Tim

    p.s. I'm talking about adults.

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    1. Unfortunately, I am intimate with this topic. Bullies are an ugly fact of life; young or old, school or work.

      But as you discovered, they are surprising weak when confronted.

      It is really hard to fit a bully into any kind of spiritual belief. They only understand force, and so require us to respond in kind.

      But at my advanced age, I'm fine with it. Nothing in life is as smooth and as consistent as a pane of glass, is it?

      The bully vanquished, I resume my preferred mode of existence.