March 19, 2015

The Heart That Bullying Built

When people hurt you over and over, think of them like sand paper; They may scratch and hurt you a bit, but in the end, you end up polished and they end up useless.  
- Chris Colfer

I'm not sure anyone gets through life without feeling intimidated, pushed around, threatened, or abused in varying degrees. Living in an imperfect world as we do and sharing it with imperfect people while being imperfect ourselves pretty much guarantees we'll all get our chance to try it out. Regrettably, some experience it with greater regularity and cruelty than others and will be affected more deeply as a result.

I have been subjected to bullying and I won't pretend it doesn't leave marks.

People who are hurt, hurt people and we live in a world where so many people are hurting.

This in no way excuses anyone from acting hatefully toward others. It can be extremely damaging if we don't find a way not to define ourselves by the cruel actions of others.

I wasn't born a duck so things don't naturally roll off my back. The ground I've gained hasn't come easily but it has come deliberately so what I share today comes after having paid my dues.

If you have been or are now being bullied, I hope you also find a way to free yourself from your oppressor - even if that means finally letting go of something that happened years ago. We're still captive as long as we're tied to them by unforgiveness or resentment. All negative energy we feel belongs only to us. Often the bully has long since forgotten their actions and can't image we haven't too. 

In many cases, we're only hurt once or twice by a bully, but we continue to tear open the wounds when we replay the scenes over and over in our minds. Healing means walking away from our victimology and claiming our birthrights as people of inherent value.

I've chosen not to share details of my experiences. To do so gives them energy that I've long since reclaimed and publishing them here offers no benefit to you. What I would like to share with you are the rich blessings that were born of those "terrible at the time" experiences. My life has been changed forever by them and thank goodness!

Here's a list of what I've gained:

UNDERSTANDING:  I'd never have understood the feelings of others who had endured cruelty without having shared the experience. All I would have had to offer is an empty "I can imagine it must be hard" instead of "I know just how you feel, and it will all work out to your advantage." 

MY VOICE: As a result of being bullied I have found my strong voice and learned that I am more than the labels anyone assigns to me.

PERSPECTIVE: I used to believe that everyone thinks just like me!  Naive huh? In reality we each filter our feelings through our experiences. How can I know the muck a bully has to filter through?

EXAMPLE: I learned how NOT to treat people! Though it's the same lesson my parents taught - "How would you like it if...?" - now I KNOW how I would like it. I no longer have to imagine. I may never have fully understood the pain that thoughtless and hurtful words can inflict.

COURAGE: I gained the courage to stand up for myself and look at myself through my own eyes, and the courage to be OK with what I see.

PATIENCE: I've learned that not all wounds are visible and it's taught me to give people the benefit of the doubt.

COMPASSION: Both for those who are bullied and also those who feel the need to act out their own pain.

RESILIENCE: Resilience only comes from what we overcome and can't be bought cheaply. Adversity's not a fun teacher but it sure is a good one!

PEACE: I've made peace (for the most part) with the past. There may always be echos but they're much fainter now and harder to hear and they have less power over me as time goes on.

I've developed a personal philosophy that's helped me overcome a lot of unfortunate experiences. I call it the "worse things" philosophy. It goes like this: There are worse things than being bullied - and one of them is needing to be a bully.

I find I can insert almost anything into the "worse things" mantra and come out feeling happier to be me than the other guy. Try it! You might find it helpful too!


  1. Great post! I like your "worse things" philosophy I will definitely be giving that a try.

    1. Thanks Jamie. My "worse things" philosophy turns my perspective around in a hurry! I hope it helps you too!

  2. I hear you! The only way to keep something a part of your life is to keep thinking about it. Be gone!!

    1. It's true. Easier said than done sometimes but what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. :)

  3. This reminds me of something I read yesterday about how we choose our memories. Contrary to what we like to believe, it turns out that memory is a slippery thing. A group of people who have all experienced the same thing together will each describe something different; we selectively retain what fits our perceptions and expectations. We write our own stories.

    Like you, I too was bullied and I know it has shaped my reactions and feelings in my present ever since. That can be both good and bad. I wonder ... if we can choose how we remember, what could that do for our future, not only as individuals but as a society?

    1. Boy are you right about seeing the same things differently! Two of my sons and I all saw the "look out guy" for the burglary taking place down our lane. When the police came to take our statements, you'd have thought there were three look out guys! We had quite a debate about it. It turned out we were all right. We were all describing the parts of him that we noticed.

      Selective memory is probably more common than we believe. I laugh when my husband tells me his mothers views of his childhood are "revisionist history" since she claims she wasn't a spanker. :)

      Framing has played an important role in dealing with unpleasant memories. When I only focus on my side of the story the memories are painful, and color everything. When my frame includes empathy (NOT always easy) and I try to understand what may cause someone to act as they do I find I'm able to release a lot of anger and resentment. In truth we may never understand any but our own motivations, but trying lets us decide how much of the picture we want showing through the frame.

      I believe you're right about writing our own stories. I heard a quote I found interesting. "There is no reality, only perception." We each add meaning to what we see so to that extent it's true.

      Thanks for your thoughts! I love to get different points of view!

  4. Thank you! I appreciate you taking the time to read it. :)

  5. Great post and it is good to have a post that encourages people to move on from unpleasant experiences!

    1. Thanks Chris. Moving forward is the only way to put the past behind us. Besides the very best revenge is to survive and thrive!

  6. There is much good here - so glad you can see the positives that come from harsh experiences and are able to pass that philosophy on to others. Well done. Your point is a good one - giving voice to the experience is not always necessary. Each one has to deal with their past in their own way. Sometimes the details and circumstances simply don't matter; the results do.

    1. "Sometimes the details and circumstances simply don't matter; the results do."

      I LOVE that! Wish I'd written it! Thank you Lisa for reading and sharing your thoughts. Honestly, not commenting on the experience came with time. I think sometimes we NEED to comment. We need to be heard even if we're just talking to ourselves at times. With work we can reach the point where we don't need our "stories" anymore. We want healing more than we want our stories and at that point we can let them go.

      It's been a process to be sure, and you're absolutely right! It's the results that matter! Thanks again for stopping by.

  7. Love Love Love This!! It's my way of looking at what I've been through too. I always look for the lessons and for the gifts the hardships left me. The bullies gave me all those things you mentioned too. (I wrote something similar, in fact.) And I truly am grateful for all of it because it made me who I am today, and I happen to really like who she is. Great, inspirational post! Thank you so much!!

    1. Thanks Jackie. I'm so happy to hear you've found strength in your experiences too. I believe that all things work out for our benefit if we look at what good there could possibly be in everything that happens. Even the bad stuff.

      Yesterday for instance my husband and I were running ragged with nothing going as planned. As a result of everything being a mess, we changed our plans and ended up going somewhere different than we'd planned. At that stop, we parked along a curb that made it a pain to get out of the passengers side of the car where I was sitting. Because of the acrobatics it took, I was forced to really watch my step. As a result, I noticed my husbands tire in front was low. He was leaving town right after and decided to have the tire checked. He found he'd picked up a staple that would have caused the tire to go flat probably somewhere on the expressway at high speed. LIFE IS GOOD! ALWAYS! If everything hadn't happened just as it did - including all the annoyances, I'd probably never have noticed the tire. Makes me wonder how many other things are being taken care of for us while we're not paying attention.

      Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. We're kindred spirits! Glad we've connected.

    2. I just love your positivity! It's so true...things happen the way they're supposed to happen, when they're supposed to happen. There is a reason for EVERYTHING. And YES! Life is wonderfully good. We just have to be willing to look for the goodness - see the good that came out of the bad. So many things in my life (losses) brought me so many blessings. I always say, if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing. So glad we've connected too. And happy to have found a kindred spirit!

    3. P.S. I absolutely LOVE the name of your blog. It's the reason I clicked on the link. ;) It was a sign that you were "my people". haha

    4. Thanks Jackie!

      I've found that the more I stop to look at what happens, and look for the lessons, that no experience was for nothing. Tragic things happen to everyone. People make choices sometimes that hurt others. I don't believe that people are "destined" to do bad things just so others can learn from them, but I do believe that in order to make choices we need to have choices. That means people can choose to be hurtful as well as kind.
      What happens next we determine by how we choose to frame those events and how we choose to respond.

      We all experience loss, disappointment, illness and the like. No one is exempt but it sure can feel like we're the only ones sometimes.

      There's a whole lot of learning to be done while we're alive. I'm trying to catch as many of those lessons the first time so I don't have to keep going through the same things over and over. Sounds like you are too. :)