Bullies show up everywhere — through the Internet on Facebook and emails; they show up in national politics, and in our family gatherings. Bullies characteristically “threaten” others directly or indirectly. Perhaps they are threatening to expose weaknesses of yours to others, or imply that your job is on the line, or continue harassing you until you do as they want.
How are we to respond in an ethical and meaningful way to the bullies in our lives? How might our spiritual practice help us here? Ultimately, through our personal agreement we consent to be bullied. Yes, whether or not we are bullied depends on our response.
Eleanor Roosevelt’s wisdom comes to mind: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
I’ve discovered that no one can bully us when we are strong in our principles. When we put our mind on spiritual values the bully cannot hook us because our attention is on practicing a principle (such as “I live life from my side,”) rather than the bully’s behaviors.
Bullies try to manipulate events and people to get what they want. They often try to get us on the defensive. But they can only succeed through our consent. Don’t consent.
Sometimes we don’t consent to bullying by taking action; other times we remain still and disengaged. We must each discern for ourselves how to respond to a bully or bullish environment.
Bullies present even a greater challenge to our spiritual integrity when they manage an environment (work, politics, or family for example). If we were raised in an environment where no one spoke up, we learn to be quiet to survive. Sometimes we learn to live under the radar of the abusers and bullies. But the bullying continues. So, living under the radar, or not speaking up or feeling manipulated often means the bully is driving our bus and we are sitting in a back seat scared as they swerve about on the road.
Sometimes we have to do what it takes to get off the bus; other times we have to get our hands on the steering wheel!
Here is a simple but effective way to disarm the bully by disengaging in their delusion —
When bullied: 1. Stop and take a deep breath or two (don’t react or take their behavior personally). 2. Contemplate how past painful experiences may be getting triggered and then get a bigger view of the situation. What is really happening here? 3. From this larger view, make a choice of how you are going to respond. Don’t let the bully rush you (rushing others is a tactical way to control them). What principle can you apply as an antidote?