You, with your words like knives and swords and weapons that you use
You have knocked me off my feet again, got me feeling like I’m nothing
You, with your voice like nails on a chalkboard, calling me out when I’m wounded
You, pickin’ on the weaker man…
Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Why you gotta be so mean?
Bullies can be powerful, life changing people in our lives. I find it fascinating that I can’t remember a time when I have asked a person who bullied them as a child…they can rattle off first and last name instantly…and eyes look off in the distance, instantly seeing the bully like it was yesterday.
Bullies make a person’s world dangerous, and teach suspicion and trepidation in relationships.
People who have been bullied don’t trust easily, are hesitant in relationships, and consistently plan for the worst in relationships…and tend to see incidents in relationships through a critical lens. Ironically…this can create conditions ripe for misunderstanding and conflict as the others, who are not themselves bullies, are seen as though they might be.
- Bullying can be overt–by clear intimidation, threats of harm.
- Bullying can involve yelling, demeaning…over time, the other person believes they deserve that treatment…or if they tell someone, they won’t be believed.
- Bullying can involve threats of all kinds…we all know the kids on the playground that can threaten with a “knuckle sandwich”…but we may be less aware of bullies who threaten to withhold affection in an intimate relationship, or withdraw plans for vacation, or stonewall for days by ignoring a person until s/he gets what they want.
Bullying can be covert…accusing someone else of bullying is sometimes the most effective form of bullying. This one is hard, because the one labelled the “bully” is actually “the victim”, and vice versa. For example, let’s say a person says about a proposed vacation: “We really can’t afford it” or say, “The plans you have for vacation don’t work with my work schedule”. The partner responds: “You don’t want me to have fun. You’re controlling our lives.” In this way, even reasonable thoughts and feelings are labeled as controlling and mean and a person’s voice is silenced. when
When you’ve been falsely labelled a bully…everything can be fodder for further accusations.
So the “bully” must become passively cooperative in order to avoid having that label…and so the “victim” can pretty much write their own ticket. The one labelled “bully” is in effect bullied by disempowering them…removing the right to speak up because it will be labelled as mean.
Do you have the courage to ask people in your life if they have experienced bullying behavior from you?
Do you dare ask…do they dare to give you an honest answer?
Do you dare to hear what they have to say and ask further questions out of curiosity and a genuine desire to improve their sense of safety in the relationship?