There’s been a lot of discussion on 43T over the past day on the subject of bullying. It’s stirred up some memories and feelings about my own experiences, and so it becomes another opportunity for healing.
As a child, I was viciously and violently bullied by every member of my family – my father, my mother, my brother, my grandmother. I was bullied at school, I was bullied at church. It was all I knew. Not one person was supportive of me. The biggest kindness I received was being left alone. But I did have my dogs, my imagination, the natural world, and my books, and I know that was a lot.
As an adult, I’ve been sexually harassed at work, I’ve been bullied by groups of “mean girls,” and I was subject to unrelenting and incredibly hurtful bullying for the last two years of a job I once prized.
In many ways, I’ve come to terms with these experiences, although there is always something to work on. One thing I’ve not yet come to terms with is all of the people who saw what was happening and did nothing. In my childhood, there were teachers, parents and doctors who knew I was in trouble and made no effort to help. I was hospitalized and tried to get an appointment with a social worker who never even bother to speak to me.
As an adult, it was exactly the same way. People didn’t want to deal with outrageous behavior even when they saw it with their own eyes. A favorite expression they hide behind is, “So-and-so is always nice to me.” I think back to all those people who looked the other way, who didn’t want to get involved, who treated my suffering as an inconvenience to them, who wanted to hide their heads in the sand because lending a hand would just be too upsetting to their own complacent little fantasy worlds, and what I feel is rage. Did any of these people ever consider what a difference it would have made to me to simply hear someone say, “I see what’s happening to you, and you don’t deserve to be treated like that.”
I see this rage as something else I need to come to terms with so I can progress in my own spiritual growth.
Today I feel pleased with some of my qualities that come directly from those painful experiences. At work, I support the people I supervise and have no tolerance for any form of bullying. As a result, I work in an office where no one is ever singled out as a target. It’s painful to be in a world where cruelty is part of the daily fabric and where it is impossible to save everyone or even anyone, but I know that one thing I can always do is bear witness and be the person who says, “I see what’s happening, and it is wrong.” I know that people do horrible things because other people look away, and I choose not to look away. Imagine how different the world would be if all of use chose not to look away.
I think the fact that I feel this way, instead of just feeling despair over having been victimized, points to another place where I have been able to reclaim my spirit, and I feel very grateful about that.