Monday, November 28, 2011

Handling Bullies A Lost Art

Handling Bullies A Lost Art

A Commentary by J. D. Longstreet

It is utterly baffling to a man of my generation to read, see, and hear stories about modern youngsters unable to handle bullies. 

Have we, as a nation, become so politically correct that we will not stand up for ourselves against a bully?  Apparently we have -- and it is deeply distressing.  It denotes a nation of wimps.

Look.  I was a skinny, scrawny, little kid when I was a lad.  That made me the target of a number of bullies.  However, the confrontations between the aforementioned bullies and myself were learning experiences that have served me well over my lifetime -- right up to today.

My father read me the riot act the very first time I came home with traces of tears on my face.  When I replied to his questions that some other kid had been “picking on me,” my father sat me down and laid it out for me.  It was a “learning lesson” sometimes referred to as a “life lesson.”  The bottom line was this:  Never, ever, allow a bully to get the upper hand. Do what you have to do to protect yourself and then take the fight to him.  He told me bluntly:  “Never start a fight, but when you’re in one -- make damn sure you win.”

From that day onward, I never backed down from a bully, whether in the educational system, in the US Army, on the job, or anywhere else. 

I am no braver than the average guy.  I simply have a set of values I live by and I have a set of clearly delineated behavioral lines over which I do not cross -- and no one else is allowed to cross.

The world has always had bullies and it always will.  That is a given.  If a man is ever to have self-respect he absolutely must, I repeat, MUST stand up for himself, no matter the circumstances and no matter how badly he is outnumbered.

I don’t understand the reluctance of people today to confront bullies.  I just don’t.  It makes no sense. Without that confrontation the bully is emboldened to continue his reign of terror – and -- his supplicants will never be free to live without the bully’s threat looming over them like a black cloud.

For the most part, bullies are scared, insecure, people. Their “self-worth” is derived from the fear of their victims. Without victims they are nothing, they are totally worthless – and they know it.

Without victims, who are willing to be victims, bullies could not exist.  

Bullying is defined by the American Psychological Association as an aggressive behavior that is intended to cause distress or harm, and that involves an imbalance of power or strength between the aggressor and the victim. (SOURCE)

Anyone can be a target for a bully. Becoming a victim and remaining a victim are two different things.  Don’t allow yourself to be a victim. 

Bullies come in all sizes, shapes, and genders.  There are even bully nations.  History has taught us than when the world has a bully nation on the rampage, that nation must be taken down either by another nation or a group of nations. 

Conflict resolution through negotiation rarely works – if ever.  Sooner or later, the bully must feel the consequences of his actions before he will ever understand, or even care, about the pain his actions have caused those he victimizes.

Bullies cannot forever be ignored.  Bullies, by their very nature, will not allow themselves to be ignored.  We all know a bully or bullies.  They are ever present. It is essential that we know how to handle bullies early in life. 

For many, their first confrontation with a bully is a defining moment in their lives. They need to be equipped to handle the grief that is poured out on them and respond in a manner that will preserve their self-respect, self esteem, and forbid any hold on them the bully will have sought.

I’m certainly no expert on this topic.  I have my share of scars from personal confrontations with bullies throughout my life.  But I never allowed myself to become a victim.

Look.  Nobody ever said life would be easy.  It isn’t.  Man is born into trouble.  It is how he responds to and handles trouble that marks him as a victim -- or “a man.” 

The parents of my generation taught us to stand up to bullies anywhere and everywhere.  They gave us the moral support we needed to take care of business when a showdown came.   They did not step in and take care of the problem for us.  WE were expected to resolve the issue by any means necessary.  And we learned. Sure, we came home, on occasion, with cuts and bruises, black eyes, and bloody noses, but we fought back.  We were never victims.

We’ve lost that guidance from parents, I am afraid. It is a lesson we need to relearn if we are to remain a free people, unafraid to live our lives with respect for ourselves -- and one another.

J. D. Longstreet

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