Stopping bullies, whether overt, covert or cyberbullying, and especially stopping self-bullying, requires time, effort, courage, determination and perseverance – grit. It’s easy to lose heart along the way, but we must not give into fear, discouragement, despair, defeat, loss of hope or depression. We must not listen to negative self-talk, or give in to the self-flagellation of shame or guilt, or pay attention to the voices who are convinced we’ll lose.
Instead, we need two crucial things to become effective in stopping bullying.
From deep in our guts, we need to rally our spirits and keep them high.
- Our lives and lives in history and fiction give us many examples. Our task is to build a treasure trove of examples and models who will inspire us when we falter; who will keep us from becoming passive victims.
- They may be personal memories of times we’ve surprised ourselves with courage, strength, fortitude and skill.
- They may be the examples of family members, teachers, priests, ministers, friends. I always think of my mother’s mother, who walked across Europe when she was 16 in order to come to America – barefoot. I’m inspired by her example. If she could do it – with no cell phone, wireless tablet, social security, health or unemployment insurance – and not a word of English, how can I be less determined? How can I succumb to fear or despair?
- They may be people in history or the news. Think of Joan of Arc or the women who walked across America along side covered wagons or Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who escaped from Somalia. Think of the men at Valley Forge or the Battle of Britain who kept going even though everyone “knew” they didn’t have a chance. Think of George Washington and Winston Churchill refusing to admit defeat.
- Many movies and books come to a dramatic moment when the heroes can chose to give up or to continue on, whether they win or lose. For example, in the last “Matrix” movie, Mr. Smith is defeating Neo. He keeps calling him Mr. Anderson and trying to sap his will and strength by taunting him with, “Why do you keep fighting. You know you can’t win.” Finally, in agony and desperation, Neo says, “Because I choose to!”
There it is. Because we choose to. That’s the beginning and end of it. Keep choosing to resist bullies; keep choosing to resist the self-bullying and the perfectionism that would discourage us and sap our will and strength. Simply choose to fight on, whether or not we really think we can win. Hope or will: choose which ever reason feels better or choose both reasons. But choose to keep on keeping on.
We need helpers to lift us out of the pit of despair; who will march on together with us.
- We usually need help to remind us to keep on when we might otherwise give up.
- Family, friends and even strangers can sometimes say the right words or make helpful gestures. When abusive, bullies seem unstoppable or our self-bullying seems overwhelming, our guardian angels can encourage us to keep our spirits strong and stand with us to keep us fighting. They can keep us from defeat, depression and suicide.
- Sometimes they’re the gestures of famous people who inspire us. Because I grew up in Brooklyn at just the right time, I remember Peewee Reese, from Louisville, Kentucky, putting his arm around Jackie Robinson’s shoulder to let Jackie and the world know that Peewee was not a bystander. He was a witness for what was right, standing with him.
- Sometimes fictional characters remind us of people being lifted and supported. In “The Lord of the Rings,” all the characters except Gandalf and Aragon have moments when they despair and are ready to give up to seemingly inevitable defeat by the forces of evil. And someone encourages them to keep fighting, because we must be an example for future generations and, also, we never know what will happen if we keep fighting. There are thousands of other examples.
We need to build:
- An inner world of those models who will inspire us by saying the right words when we need them.
- A community of deep and sturdy friends who will inspire us to remain strong and dedicated.
They don’t have to make anything okay. But what they do in the darkest times is to show that there is light and they throw a life line.
Sometimes we may act immediately and firmly to stop bullies. At other times we hold back while keeping an intense fire burning in our guts, waiting for the right moment to act. But that’s our choice of tactics, not the acts of a defeated soul.
As Winston Churchill said, “Never give in, never give in, never give in.”
Then we have a chance to succeed.
For some examples, see the case studies in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” available fastest from this web site.