Bullies, we all dislike bullies, right? When we think of bullies we think of schoolyards and children who are being teased or pushed around.
But what about adult bullies, how do we deal with them? There are many types of bullying. There are the ‘manipulators’ . . . you know, the ones who smile in your face and pry for info and then use anything you might tell them to discredit you with others. We often encounter this type of bully in the workplace . . . usually this is someone who is jealous of you that wants to discredit you to bosses or co-workers.
But sometimes, we find this type of bully in a mentally / emotionally abusive marriage. The abuser or bully discredits friends and family of the abused spouse, they make up stories and slights in an attempt to alienate their spouse, to convince them that they are the only one that love them, cares for them and is there for them.
They display jealousy and set boundaries, treating their spouse like a child. They belittle them and if the spouse complains they tell them they are too sensitive, that it was a joke and if provoked they may resort to calling their spouse names and giving them put downs. They remind them that they’re smarter, stronger, better.
The abused spouse often misses the abuse at first, thinking they’ve instead found someone who supports them, understands them and is truly there for them. It’s slow, insidious and the true bully generally isn’t revealed until they think they have full control of their partner.
Friends and family see it happening, they know how the bully feels about them, the slights and slings and arrows, and it takes a lot to stand up against a bully like this. How do you support someone you care about when you are constant being maligned and put down? When your visits and your calls, your gestures of goodwill are all twisted to appear otherwise?
To stop bullying we would have to stop gossiping and that’s like trying to stop the wind. But we can all learn to stand strong against it by being truthful, by giving family members and co-workers credit when it’s deserved, by defending others when they are wrongfully criticized and accused. We can continue to be there for friends and family members that we see caught in a situation like this. We might not be able to release them from the abuse, but we can pray for them, we can love them even if the abuser lies about our intent.
It’s hard to do ‘the right thing’ . . . to not fall into the anger and hurt that is sent our way. It’s difficult to not want to sink to their level, to sling the arrows right back. But today someone said to me, “What would your mom want you to do?”
Those words made me stop and think. Mom, well she had an incredible Irish temper and a quick sense of inferiority. So she would be quickly angered, probably yell and pace and vent. But what would she want me to do?
Well, she would expect more of me. She would expect me to be the bigger person; she would expect me to love in spite of the injustice. She was proud of my peace making skills, proud of how seldom I yelled or made a scene . . . so now I just have to dig deep to find that person, the caring person she always believed in.