Amy asked "What were you thinking about right before you fell asleep?"
I can tell you, but someone out there is bound to take offense.
And some of you might just discover how prude I really am, deep down in my heart of hearts.
And some of you might feel like I am being self-righteous.
Please know that I am keenly aware of a huge number of flaws and more keenly aware that I have more flaws than I am aware of. We are all working towards goals, and even these little blogposts are just snapshots of moments along the road.
What I'm saying is, I have a long way to go. So does everyone else. This does not represent a destination or a judgement of someone elses journey. Just my thoughts about where our journeys are taking us as I talk myself to sleep each night.
That being said, feel free to take offense. And then make an honest evaluation of what that offense means for you rather than for the person you feel has handed it out.
After all, interactions are more about people than people want to cop to.
Once again, I'm getting ahead of myself.
I've been intending to write a post of this nature for some time. Perhaps that's why its on my mind as I fall asleep. Something needs to be said.
On Saturday, I got bullied a bit. It was completely uncalled for and it impacted a group of people, not just myself. Some of the women who were around me when it happened actually cried a bit. I did not. I got mad. There was no reason for any of us to be treated in such a manner. But the individual doing the bullying is a frequent perpetrator of general meanness and nastiness, and while she has caused me tears in the past, this time I was done. Infuriated.
I stewed for a while. I recognized that this individual probably treats those around her like this because this is how she is treated in her own life. I don't think that's an excuse, especially for a grown up who is responsibile and intelligent. We choose our actions. I do think part of the problem is that this person is so power hungry they no longer recognize the injuries they cause to those around them. They block out feeling in an act of self-protection, but doing so means they feel nothing for those around them, or that they assume those around them have done the same and will also feel nothing.
But its deceptive. Because you can pretend all you want that you or others aren't feeling, but all you are doing is pretending, and the reality is that your hurts and the hurts of others are all there, getting jumbled up in a game of pointing fingers of blame and responsibility.
And its inappropriate that anyone should act this way. Children do it as a learned behavior, grown ups need to move beyond it.
So I was angry. And hurt. And I knew that I was the undeserving victim of a chain of bullying, and while I have no idea who started it, I'm certain every perpetrator would point their finger of blame at the person who hurt them and eventually it could simply be traced back to Cain and Abel. But they aren't responsbile for the actions of last saturday. Regardless of blame, regardless of "who started it" we each have to take responsibility for our own actions.
Which leads me to Sunday. When I was already feeling hurt, angry, and vulnerable. And this guy started pushing my buttons. He always pushes my buttons. But this time I was through. I was already on the edge and maybe all he did was all he does everytime we hang out, but instead of forcing a good-natured smile, I spoke my mind. And regardless of the number of times I've thought it, He didn't deserve to have my mind spoken to him. And that's how I became the bully.
I told you, I am keenly aware of imperfections in my character.
And I agonized over it for a day or two. I argued over it in my mind. He deserved it. He has deserved it for a long time. No, he didn't, you've never given him indication of your irritation or any correction. Yes I have, I'm constantly telling him to back off. No, he did nothing different than the usual ribbing. But I've had enough.
And that's where I saw that it was my problem. I had enough. I was over the edge. I spoke my mind. I am responsible for my own actions. And to run around declaring that he deserved it or he asked for it was to be no better than the woman who had bullied me. The chain had to stop with someone taking responsibility, and it may as well be with me.
So I swallowed my pride. I called him, he didn't answer, (I don't blame him, I was pretty mean) and so I texted my apology. And he accepted, and I think things are fine. Pretty anti-climactic for how much pride I had to swallow.
But at least I have some self-righteous assurance that I am not the same person as the woman who tore into me.
Bullies use shame. They make their victim feel as though its their own fault they have been picked on. The weak members of the herd are singled out, and left feeling as though its their own fault for being weak. And they are told that their choice is to remain weak and continue as victims or to become strong by being the bully themselves. And so bullies beget bullies.
And I'm not sure that there is a way to stop someone else from bullying. But you can stop yourself. You don't have to create yet another link in the chain, you don't have to build another bully. There is no guarantee that the person you attack will be willing or able to stop the cycle, so you have to stop it yourself. And you stop it with words. You label what is happening, you label the actions of yourself and of those around you. You label responsibilities. And you don't do it in an accusatory or self defensive way. You state the facts.
My facts were, I was overwhelmed with emotion and I took it out on someone. I chose a target and I behaved inappropriately. I apologized.
See how those were all of the "I". The ideas that someone caused my emotional distress, that someone may have 'deserved' retribution, or anything indicating blame are removed. This is not a court of law designed for witnesses and punishment and retribution. It is a relationship with real people who are only and completely responsible for their own actions.
I can also choose to stop my interactions with those who casue emotional distress in my life. I can choose to walk away from those offenses. No matter what, I am responsible. No one, not the mean lady, the button-pusher, Cain and Abel, or the devil himself makes me do or feel anything.
So stop saying it. Stop saying the devil is making you grumpy today. Its simply not true and it is damaging to give him that kind of power.
Now you know as well as I do that stresses add up. Its never just one person or one incident that causes the disaster. The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back comes in a whole pile of straws, any one of which can be added or removed to change the camel's burden.
It works the other way too. The positive way. Think for a moment of the number of times you have needed rescuing in your life. The accumulated good deeds help make you the person that has survived countless attacks. You don't get resuced once and call it a life. You get pulled from the mud countless times. And those times will continue throughout your life.
Its easy to dish out bullying another as often as we have felt bullied. But have you rescued others as often as you have felt rescued?
There is a deficit in this world. I have no idea if the deficit is because of an overabundance of negative deeds and emotions being slung around, or by the lack of good deeds. You break even if you meet bully for bully and smile for smile. But you can double your returns if you replace the negative with a positive.
I'm still working on it. I certainly haven't returned a smile to the bully lady. I've been focused on undoing my own bullying. The only thing more difficult than apologizing for my own behavior will be swallowing my pride to be kind in the face of someone who has mistreated me.
So my last thought as I went to sleep was "I can't be nice to her. I won't. She doesn't deserve it."
But I know that eventually I will be. Eventually. I'll need a little more time. I'll wallow in my deficit for a bit longer. Maybe I'll make a list of nice things I can do for others before I finally come to terms with being nice to her.
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