October is bully awareness month. We are all asked to show our unified stance against bullying by wearing blue next Monday. This sure is a baffling issue - hard to define and hard to end. Like pain, everyone's tolerance level for bullying is different. Was I bullied as a child? I guess so. I mean, what short round kid wasn't? But school was so much fun for me, that I didn't notice - or was to dumb to notice. Oh sure, Joe and Mike, my nasty neighbor boys who attended public school (that was the problem wasn't it?) chased me home from 1st grade every day. But I screamed so loudly all the way home that in time, one by one, neighbor's would step onto their porches, armed with brooms, rolling pins and fly swatters as they watched the three of us approach, allowing me safe passage.
But you know what, the bullying I have experience from adults has been far worse, more hurtful and more memorable than those after school flights from the brothers. One person is a name caller, the other, a disrespectful challenger. When I finally had the guts to tell one that I could not longer tolerate my friends beings called "stupid", "liars" and a slew of other names, I was dismissed from the relationship. That was good. Most recently, I have been in a situation in which an individual chose to argue with me and belittle me - only when there was an audience. When we talk one on one, all is well. My defense with him has always been to take the quiet road, realizing that those witnessing the aggression will take note and his name will be forever written in the annals of nastiness. A few days ago, my nemesis showed up at a party I was at and, wouldn't you know, he headed right over to the chair next to me. He was warming up. He was ready to find some reason to loudly tell me that I was wrong about something - the color of the sky, the day of the week - anything. I told him that someone was already sitting there, which he clearly could have deduced from the beverage glass and partially eaten plate of food directly in front on the chair. He got up. I wiped the sweat from my brow thinking I was in the clear. Couldn't be that easy. No sirree. He squeezed in between me and the person to my right on the couch. What's up with that? I made it clear that we could talk about the weather and nothing else. Annoyed, he left shortly after that.
I'm an adult. I know how to analyze situations and understand the importance of deciding what is and what is not worthy of my attention. Kids don't have those skills yet and the bullying landscape is multi-faceted.
Far too many books have been written about bullying in the past few years. Eric's Kahn Gale's Bully Book is based loosely on incidents that happened to him in 6th grade. Classmates actually wrote a book on the fine art of grade school social climbing - how to do, how to choose a victim, and how not to care whose feelings are hurt in the process. The rules are ruthless and beyond ugly. When Eric was eleven years old, he felt like the whole class was conspiring against him. Everyone used the same insults and nicknames, and there didn't seem to be a safe corner of the room or moment in the day. The book gives voice to everyone who has ever had a Joe, a Mike, a name caller or a bruiser in their lives.
http://the http://the bullyproject.startempathy.org
Wishing you a bully free day, week, month, year....life
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