It’s an old label that is taking on a radically new level of awareness and significance.
Ron and I were talking this morning about experiences past and present and the differences in how much we enjoyed or hated them. Compare and contrast. To quickly summarize: The bad experiences involved a bully. The good ones didn’t.
It was liberating to be able to point to a person and say, “She’s why it was a bad experience. She’s a bully.” A light of understanding came into our eyes and all became clear. Obviously much more goes into whether and experience is good or bad, but the presence of a Bully goes a very long way in that determination.
It was very easy to identify the bully. We already knew that that person’s presence made the overall experience bad, but up until the B word was applied, we’d tried to reason our way through it. We’d tried to figure out what we could do to alter our perspective.
That’s what a bully does. She manipulates through intimidation. She’s erratic and hurtful so that when she’s not, it’s such a relief that you will do anything for her. It’s of utmost importance to appease her so that she won’t do it again – all the while knowing that she will. You’re on borrowed time. Sometimes the bullying makes your life so hard that you quit your job. Sometimes the bullying makes a project that should have been joyous an inexplicable trial.
It’s important not to allow the Bully label to become the new Red Scare, though. Just because a person is difficult doesn’t make them a Communist, I mean, a Bully. This is a real danger. Every single person I know has been bullied. It’s a fact of life.
Sometimes the bullying is so severe that the victim kills himself. I say himself because the current high level of awareness is with gay men committing suicide. Not to diminish the severity of LGBTQ people’s experiences, but bullying is equal opportunity. That group suffers especially. Sexuality is an easy target.
Bullying happens every day, everywhere. It’s the extreme reaction of insecure people who take control of the world around them through fear. Machiavelli was right. It works in the short term. It’s not usually a choice at first, but becomes addictive when it works.
Few bullies are actually sociopaths. Some are fucked up and unable to cope any other way. Some are people who are so hurt and damaged that they need company.
It’s important not to label every hurtful action as bullying. It diminishes the importance of the distinction. Sometimes we are hurtful. That doesn’t make us a bully. It makes us human. The difference is, we try to fix it.
A Bully can’t or won’t fix it. A Bully rarely knows that she’s a Bully.
There are special people in the world who still love that Bully, even knowing that they will be hurt for it. We can’t help it. Again – human.
There are times when it’s okay to knowingly associate with a Bully. Everyone should be able to otherwise we would never get anything done. I think the key is to be aware that that’s what you’re dealing with and have your armor ready.
I’m coming closer to answering an important question I posed a couple of years ago. Can I pursue great stuff and first, not be an asshole in the process and second, not have to work with assholes in the process? Now, I understand that Asshole = Bully. I also know that there’s not a black and white / yes or no answer.
Susan Scot Fry
Update… a) I’m kind of surprised at how many people found this clarifying and comforting. The whole concept that Asshole=Bully made sense to a lot of people. b) I wonder if bullies know that they’re bullies.