Tuesday, March 17, 2015

On Bullies

I use the National Geographic Bird Identification App
It's a grey overcast day.  The birds are still out, serenading everyone who will listen.  The goldfish and our one Koi are out, even the tiny babies.  They swim lazily through the chilly water.  Our apple trees are almost in bloom, the little dark pink buds are peeking out, promising the bees of sweetness to come.  I love watching the birds swoop in and out for seed.  We have identified a couple of new ones, the Dark-Eyed Junco is the most frequent visitor.  When we first started feeding the birds, we loved that fact that we could draw in up to 20 doves at a time, in addition to all the smaller song birds.  The most prominent dove is the White Winged Dove, but we have also had Eurasian Collared Doves and the tiny Inca doves.  The Eurasian Collared and Inca Doves are docile, just hanging out getting food.  But the White Winged Doves are bullies.  We have bullies in our playground!  All the birds have quarrels with one another, usually it is the females squabbling at the males, but the White Winged Doves actually attack one another, the other doves, and even the little sparrows and finches.  They take all the food and attack anyone else that comes near.  They will go so far as to charge down the fence at any other bird that perches there.  Everyone else in our bird playground shares.  Last year we had a Lovebird that would come around.  Someone's pet had gotten loose.  I'm not sure what happened to him, and I hope he found a warm place to hibernate for the winter.  But, even this odd-one-out didn't have a problem with most of the others.  Almost everything in our backyard lives in peace.  Our fish don't fight, the bees and yellow jackets won't bother you if you don't bother them.

Isn't it typical that in a place of serenity and calm you get at least one individual who is ready to cause problems for everyone else.  For no reason other than the desire (or instinct) to survive.  It is odd how so many can live in perfect harmony, without sickness and disease, all death is part of the normal way of things, not premature, but one group or individual feels as though it isn't enough.  I wonder if the doves think through this in their own way.  The Canyon Towhee just showed up for the first time this Spring.  I was a bully once.  From junior high through high school, though less in later high school.  I was also bullied in 6th grade.  It is a large contrast.

In 6th grade, I was kind of smart and made sure to do all my homework.  There were a couple of girls that were mean, they liked to do things to humiliate me like pull my pants down in front of everyone. They would also hit me and threaten to beat me if I didn't do their homework.  Sometime after 6th grade and before 7th grade where I would be attending the junior high, a shift occurred.  I don't remember having reasoned out that if I became mean I wouldn't be beat up anymore, but I think even then I knew that I was afraid and I hated it so I became intimidating.  It's a horrible feeling, fear.  It is even worse when you know that you are making others feel the same way.  I went through this cycle of hating myself and pretending to think I was better than everyone else.  It was horrible.  In looking back, I realize that I felt like I had to survive.  Just like the doves.  But, I think that if I could go back and teach myself something it would be that kindness can deflate even the worst of bullies.  I think that if I would have known then that consistent kindness and acceptance can touch the hurting part of a bully, and diffuse the anger and fear.

At some point between high school, young adulthood, and now (I'm 34), I came to this realization.  I quit feeling the need to defend myself (most of the time) and I learned how to love.  I learned that by showing love and loving even the unloveliest of individuals, there could be hope for a brighter future for him or her.  Bullies aren't that different from those who establish self-destructive behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse, cutting, etc.  The pain is the same.  Words like "useless" and "worthless" are still heard over and over again in the brain.  The difference is the reaction to the pain.  One destroys the pain within the self and the other seeks to make others feel and recognize the pain.  So, when I hear of bullying and how extensive it has become in society, I do feel for those being bullied.  I get it.  I understand being ostracized because I was different from everyone else.  I understand being so afraid to go to school or work because of what could happen.  I understand being afraid to walk down the street because you've had strangers mock and grab at you.

I also feel for the bully.  I understand the anger and hatred for everyone because of how horrible it feels to be "the bully".  I understand feeling lost and alone and not having any way to control anything in life except to take it out on others.  I understand being tired of the ridicule and judgment to the point that, "I won't just stand up for myself, I will make sure you don't even get the chance to think things toward me." Bullies make me sad, has there been no one to show that person real love and kindness?  The kind of love and kindness that looks beyond the differences.  The kind of love and kindness that creates light within the individual and gives him or her something to stand on.  The kind of love that repeatedly tells the individual, "Hey, you don't have to be angry all the time.  You don't have to fight.  I see you and you matter."  The kind of love that shows the individual that some types of behavior are unacceptable, but the worth of the individual is not diminished.  I am grateful that I had some people in my life that could show these things to me that I could learn to be strong and kind, an individual and loving and compassionate.  It is these people who have made me want to see other bullies for who they are and show them the things that were shown to me.

Have you ever seen Ender's Game (or read the book)?  There is a part in the movie where Ender describes how he can look at the aggressor and see his vulnerability.  He says that it is at that moment where you know you can destroy someone, but you also come to understand him.  Have you ever had someone look at you and just know that they can see through the exterior you have put up into your very soul?  I have.  It's unsettling and comforting.  In my last post I spoke about becoming someone who sees.  This is the same.  If we continue to fight the aggressor with the same methods they fight, we will get nowhere, we will just destroy one another.  If we stop, see the aggressor, and understand him or her, we can then have compassion and disarm him or her.  We can teach them to love and show kindness.   We can love with the kind of love that says, "Your behavior is unacceptable, but you are valued."

I didn't know I was going to write about this.  I honestly started off just jotting down my observations about my yard and nature around me.  I think about this often though because I see a lot of judgment toward people who are hurting within just as much as those they hurt.  Even if they don't realize or acknowledge their hurt, it is there.  It comes in the guise of hatred, violence, and ignorance.  Some bullies act out of ignorance because they have never been shown or taught love that sees beyond difference.  This ignorance is a hurt that resides within, invisible to the carrier, until it explodes and harms others.  Ignorance can be the worst hurt because nobody wants to admit that they are ignorant of something, that they have been wrong about a lifetime of actions.  Admitting bad behavior and acknowledging the hurt of ignorance means we have to gain empathy for all those we've hurt.  When I first started recognizing how much I had hurt others, I went through a new cycle of self-condemnation and hatred.  I had to forgive myself, and for those I could reach, I had to apologize.  Feeling the hurt that we cause others is not a fun experience.  But it is necessary if we are going to properly heal and forgive.  It is necessary if we are going to ensure that we are going to change bad behavior.

I wish there were some way I could apply this to the bully doves in my yard. I wish I could show them that we are establishing a balanced ecosystem here and there is no need for unkindness.  I wish some people weren't as hard to reach as the doves.  

Light and Love,



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