Updated: Nov 20, 2019
This is uncomfortable, but I’m going to challenge you for a minute. Stay with me here.
We talk a lot these days about bullying – identifying it, confronting it, preventing it. I love that my kids are being educated in an environment that embraces social/emotional learning, and the encouragement to be kind and inclusive is a tenant of their school experience. I don’t recall one word of that mindset every being spoken when I was in school in the 80s and 90s! Let’s just say the boy who led the chant about my breast size in 7th grade home economics could have done better…
But what about us adults? If these ideas weren’t mainstream until now, this can be new territory for us. Bullying isn’t a playground-only issue. Alienating others isn’t something that happens just in the lunchroom. Everyone can use a dose of kindness, and adults could stand to be a little more “woke” about the issue.
Recognizing bully-like behavior in others, and confronting it in a respectful way, can lead to meaningful change. But (don’t blame the messenger here), what if we need to take a moment to look inward and challenge our own behaviors and ideas of right and wrong?
I believe proclaiming “Anti-Anything” should start with our own internal examination.
We can put bumper stickers on our cars, change our Facebook profile picture to support the cause-du-jour, wear the t-shirt, and go to the 5K, but if we haven’t made sure our own house is in order then we really are not doing anything of substance. Asking others to change without doing the work ourselves is easy. Admitting our own shortcomings and putting in the effort to overcome them takes courage and humility.
What does adult bullying look like? Simply put, it is not respecting the boundaries of others. It can stem from the exploitation of an imbalance of power, the need to influence the thoughts and actions of others, and, very commonly, hurt people hurting others.
Remember, bullying can be subtle, and we may not even recognize that we have done it. And certainly some people are too nice or feel too uncomfortable to tell us to stuff it when we’ve crossed their boundary!
Some not so overt adult bullying behaviors include:
- Putting ourselves above others
- Influencing someone’s opinion of others
- Condescending remarks
- Intimidating others
- Not taking no for an answer
- Pressuring people into a role they’re not wanting to fill
- Using anger or tears to get our way
- Lack of respect for others basic rights (more on that topic below!)
Here’s my personal least favorite and most observed adult bullying: online commenting. Oye. At times it’s enough to make me shudder. The way people can remark to one another through the channels of social media can be enough to make me question the future of humanity!
Have you ever been baited into a salacious Facebook or Twitter comment chain that resulted in not being our best, most respectful selves? Have you ever posted something that may not have been true, or was meant to stir up a heated argument? Did you expect that post to change the behavior of others through fear or anger? I think we’ve all seen it, now we just need to make sure we aren’t engaging in it. That certainly is not the road to Creating A Respectful Environment in Society. Just sayin’.
My school-aged kids are being taught anti-bullying programs that encourage them to be an upstander, not a bystander. Us adults can take a page from that book, and it begins in our own hearts. If we change the way we talk to ourselves internally, then we can change our thinking. When we change our thinking, we can positively change our emotions. When we change our emotions we can change our behavior.
Changing the world means changing our own hearts first.
As I step down from the pulpit, let me leave you with a thought, derived from the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Everyone has the fundamental right to:
- Set boundaries
- Be treated with respect
- Say no without feeling guilty
- Express their feelings and desires
- Have their own opinions
- Try to create a happy and healthy life
Let’s do the work to look inside ourselves and ensure we are lifting up others, and not standing in their way.
Darcy Castro is the 2019 Elite National American Woman of Service, representing a national pageant focused on community service and empowering women. Cultivating Respect with Darcy Castro is a year-long project to promote the program’s Crown CARES platform (Creating a Respectful Environment in Society). Follow the Cultivating Respect articles and podcast at DarcyCastro.com, and learn more at AmericanWomenOfService.com.