To mark anti-bullying week, Maria Rushe shares her father's wise advice on understanding bullies.
When a 6 year old asks a question, sometimes, it makes us think. We begin by explaining it to her in the simplest terms possible, and in doing so, sometimes we realise that what we’re explaining, ISN’T as complicated as we grownups like to think it is...
“What is a Bully Mammy?”
“Erm…A bully is someone who needs to make others feel bad to feel good.”
“That’s not very nice Mammy.”
“No it isn’t.”
“Are bullies not very nice?”
“Well some bullies are nice but they’re just a wee bit sad.”
“Why are they sad?”
“I don’t know pet. Some Bullies don’t even know that they’re sad or angry. But they are and so if you are happy or excited, they don’t like it because it makes them feel more angry and sad. And so they think they should stop you from being happy so that they can feel happy.”
“That sounds silly Mammy.”
“Yes. Yes it does.” (Actually Darling. It sounds utterly ridiculous…)
“Why can’t they just be nice?”
“I don’t know Honey. Sometimes they can be nice, they can even pretend to be nice when they’re not really.” (And they’re the ones you need to watch…)
“Because it makes them feel better about themselves.”
“That’s just stupid.”
“Yes. Yes it is.”
“What’s their problem like?”
“I don’t know pet. But remember that if someone doesn’t like you or is being mean to you, it’s not your problem. It’s their problem…”
And there, just like that, I have turned into my father.
“Remember who has the problem Darling” he has always said. And do you know what? As usual, he was and is right.
Whether you’re 5 years old in a playground, or 16 years old in a locker room, or 23 years old in a flat-share, or 32 years old in a staff-room, or 43 years old in an office, or 56 years old in a committee meeting, or 67 years old in a group or club… or 87 years old at the bingo, other people will sometimes have issues with you.
Other people will always have problems. You won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. You don’t have to be.
But remembering that the issue or problem is THEIRS, not yours, helps.
I hate that I can’t protect her or her sister from Bullies. I hate that I won’t be beside her everywhere to show her the false smiles or to point out the ulterior motives of some people. It makes me sick that she might ever feel how I did for many many years in secondary school.
But while I can’t be there and she will of course have to deal with other people’s “problems”, I CAN and I will arm her with the understanding that she is in control of one thing.
She is in control of HER. Of HER feelings and HER self-worth and HER behaviour. And while she will make mistakes and poor judgement and absolute feck-ups, by God I hope that she will always be kind to others.
She will applaud them for their achievements rather than resent them for her failures.
She will congratulate her teammates even if she lost the game.
She will not put people down for being different.
She will not allow others to put someone else down in her company.
She will recognise that if someone else’s success annoys her, that it’s HER who has the problem, not them and by being bitter, she is gaining nothing but her own downfall.
Other people hold up a big mirror to us.
The person who gets to go on 3 holidays a year, reminds us that we don’t.
The person who wins, reminds us that we haven’t.
The person who has lost weight/bought a car/gotten married/been promoted/changed jobs etc., often highlights to us that we want something and haven’t yet got it.
Rather than belittling them for it or being angry at them, try realising that if you really wanted it, you would have it. If you really want to make something happen, who’s stopping you? Because surprisingly enough, it isn’t THEM who has the problem is it?
Bullies are to be pitied. Many don’t even realize that they do it. Many would be broke to the bone to think that their behaviour or comments have upset you.
But then, there are others who wouldn’t give a shit. And they are not worth your energy.
Remember who has the problem. If it’s you, that’s your problem. If it’s not you, why are you wasting your energy worrying about it?