Brace yourself, dear reader, for I am in a foul mood.
I am gratified to see that there are now many campaigns out there designed to stop bullying in our schools. Three very good ones, but by no means the only ones, are www.stopbullying.gov/, www.stopbullyingnowfoundation.org/, and www.meanstinks.com/ .
I wish there had been programs like these when I was growing up. I was the smallest kid. I wore glasses. And I was often the extreme minority in schools located in very rough neighborhoods. I learned to curl up into a ball and let them beat on me until they got bored and walked away, the whole time praying that my kidneys would emerge from the fracas intact.
And except for one brief shining moment when I snapped and beat the living crap out of a girl who had been beating me up for months, the passive route has been mine, either literally or figuratively, my entire life. If stuffing one’s anger were an Olympic sport, I’d definitely have a chest full of gold medals.
Always be polite. Don’t make waves. Pick your battles. Take the high road. Do unto others.
But this morning I woke up furious and thought, dammit, WHY? Why should I just take it and take it and take it?
I am beginning to see a clear pattern, and it has me outraged. Bullying, you see, takes on many, many forms, and it’s not simply reserved for childhood. It’s not as if people suddenly start treating you decently once you graduate.
Have you ever experienced one of these types of bullying?
- Being picked on or manipulated by a sibling,
- humiliated or beaten up by a schoolmate,
- beaten by another adult,
- harassed by a coworker,
- intimidated by someone,
- treated like crap by a supervisor,
- or raped (and yes, in my opinion this falls under the bullying umbrella because it’s a form of violence and aggression in the extreme)?
- Have you been on the receiving end of road rage,
- treated rudely by a stranger,
- or treated rudely by a loved one on such a regular basis that you begin to think you deserve it?
- Has anyone ever tried to make you feel crazy for feeling the way you feel,
- or tried to make you feel stupid or silly for not sharing their opinion?
- Has anyone ever robbed you,
- cheated you out of money,
- lied to you in order to get an advantage,
- or manipulated you to make you do something you didn’t want to do?
- Has anyone put you at risk and expected you to keep quiet about it?
- Has anyone gossiped about you to damage your reputation,
- gone out of their way to ruin an experience that you were enjoying,
- or gotten drunk or drugged to have an “excuse” for their unacceptable behavior?
- Has someone you loved or trusted told you to just sit back and take outrageous behavior so that they themselves don’t have to deal with the drama?
- Have you ever been a victim of a troll on Facebook or your blog?
- Has someone ever hidden behind their internet anonymity to behave obnoxiously when they wouldn’t have the courage to do so otherwise?
- Has anyone ever cut in front of you in line?
- Has someone scammed you out of your hard earned money? (For my personal experience with that, see “Andy Johnson, SHAME on You!!!“)
I have experienced all of these things at one time or another. And I’ve made excuses for people, looked the other way, maintained my dignity, done the right thing, taken one for the team, or thought, “Okay, maybe I deserved that,” my whole freakin’ life. At one point or another I have been a welcome mat for every douche bag within a 50 mile radius.
I have also spent an inordinate amount of time sticking up for the underdogs of this world, never truly recognizing that I was one of them and that I should put as much energy into sticking up for myself as I do for others.
Maybe all of this is coming to the surface for me now because I have been catching it from all directions recently. Maybe it’s because I feel like we, as a nation, are being bullied by our politicians. Maybe it’s just that at age 48, the scales have finally fallen from my eyes.
Whatever it is, I think people may start seeing a side of me that they have never seen before. I’m done with expecting respect and being sadly mistaken. Now it’s time to demand it, require it, and accept nothing less.
I am done with curling up in a ball. Now is the time to realize that not only do I deserve respect, but also that those who do not give me respect do not deserve to be a part of my life.