Bullies have always been around. They go all the way back to Cain and Abel. Sooner or later, it will happen to you. The question isn’t how to get them to go away. The question is, how do you handle it when they come after you?
Like most of us, I had to deal with some people making fun of me in school. I started out at quite the disadvantage, making me an easy target. My parents decided to name me after two wonderful women: a great-aunt named Ella Delona and my grandmother (whom I adored) named Callie Vivian. They could have named me Ella or Callie, for crying out loud! Wouldn’t that have been nice? But nooooo, they thought it sounded like a good idea to name me Delona Vivian, thereby giving the kids at school a golden opportunity to call me Delona Balogna. If you were one of those who called me that, who could blame you?
I had always been called Dee unless I was about to get my tail beat, and then I was Delona Vivian. I thought my first grade teacher hated me for a month every time she called the roll! Needless to say, I was determined to name my kids something people could pronounce and something they couldn’t make fun of.
You would have thought my days of being bullied would be long over by now, right? Yet here I am, in my 50’s, still killing it.
In the past, I’ve been bullied in romantic relationships, by church members, by so-called friends, by coworkers and bosses, and now I’m being bullied by complete strangers. Bullies know no limits.
If you’re honest, you’ll admit you have been bullied at one time or another by someone, too. At some point in your life, you have felt powerless while someone shamed and criticized you — and you didn’t know what to do about it.
I’ve come to the conclusion that all bullies are basically the same. I’ll let the professionals debate why they do it — maybe they have low self esteem. Maybe they were bullied themselves as children. Maybe they’re narcissists. Maybe their parents were bullies and they’re passing on the abuse to the next victims. Maybe they lack the ability to empathize. Maybe they’re jealous. You know the saying, “Hurt people hurt people,” right? Or maybe they’re just downright evil. Either way, they need Jesus, like we all do.
The details of my situation probably aren’t much different than yours or anyone else’s. If you’re going through it too, I wish I had better news. I truly don’t have a fool-proof way to deal with these people. If I did, I wouldn’t need to be an accountant anymore. I’d have my own book deal.
Bullies like tell you it’s all your fault, you deserve to be punished. They never admit they’re wrong. They shame you, call you names, tell you you’re not good enough and they’re better than you. They broadcast your mistakes and refuse to give you well-deserved praise. Everyone is on their side and you’re alone. Some do it privately, some do it publicly, and sometimes it’s both.
Either way, it’s a painful existence to live in, to wake up every morning and wonder what they’re going to do to you today.
In my current situation, I tried everything else to get them to stop. I tried to be so good they’d have nothing bad to say about me. I tried to ignore them and maybe they’d go away. I tried to talk to people who might believe what they said about me and try to explain I wasn’t a bad person. Nothing worked.
Finally I had a belly full and I exposed what they had been doing to me. Afterwards, it felt good for a lot of people to defend me. It made me realize I wasn’t alone in the battle.
It’s not over by a long shot, I’m afraid, and I don’t know if it helped at all. All I know is, I couldn’t go another day being the victim. I felt better about myself to have taken a stand.
Here’s my amateur advice if you’re being bullied:
- Tell someone about it. Gather some support. Don’t weather this storm alone.
- Gain encouragement from others’ stories who have been there and survived.
- Don’t engage in a social media fight with them. There’s a difference between defending yourself and getting down in the trash pile with them. Find that happy medium between standing up and walking away.
- Don’t lower yourself to bully them back. Resist the urge to shame and name-call in retaliation. Take the the high road. You have to like the person you see in the mirror.
- Always tell the truth, no matter how much they lie about you.
- DRAW CLEAR BOUNDARIES. Give them as little opportunity to hurt you as you can. “NO” is a complete sentence!
Most of all, rest in the assurance that God sees what’s happening to you. HE will make it all right in the end. Romans 12 says,
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
It’s the right thing to stand up to bullies. It’s the right thing to defend others who are being bullied and let them know they’re not alone. To quote the great John Wesley,
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
Try to stay strong, dear friend. You’re not alone. And I will try to stay strong along with you!
But can you do me just one favor? If they make a movie about this mess I’m dealing with, will you please make sure Jennifer Aniston plays me? And if, God forbid, they make a Dateline about it, will you cry and tell Dennis Murphy how much you loved me and what a great person I was?
Just kidding . . . I hope.