Sometimes we must fight ferociously to stop bullies at school, at home and in the workplace because the responsible authorities won’t act, despite the evidence. But other times, we are the problem. We have conflicting values we can’t choose between so we don’t act effectively; we stay stuck – uncertain and indecisive. We vacillate instead of acting with determination and perseverance. We give in.
A few examples in different areas of life are:
- Stopping school bullies – some people tell their children to believe that all people are good underneath, that the best method to stop bullies is to be nice and to befriend them, and never to use violence. Or the kids may be stuck because they don’t want to squeal to teachers or the principal, but they can’t stop bullying by themselves. Because they can’t choose which value is more important, they become victims.
- Stopping bullying spouses – some people accept control, manipulation, harassment, bullying and abuse because they think their most important value is that they made a vow for life, no matter what, or they’ve been taught to honor old rules about what their role is marriage requires, even though their spouse is selfish, narcissistic and insensitive.
- Stopping bullies in families – some people might not want to confront family bullies, even adults who have and/or still are molesting children. They hold back because they think that they shouldn’t tell family secrets or they don’t want to disrupt family unity or peace and quiet. Or they’re stuck because they wouldn’t want to lose the relationship with a parent, child or sibling – even when that relationship hurts almost every time. Or they give in to temper tantrums or put up with bullying teenagers because they think that having children like them is more important than setting behavioral standards and consequences.
- Stopping toxic friends – some people maintain unhealthy, controlling relationships because they value forgiveness and friendship even though it’s extremely painful and debilitating. So they suffer in silence.
- Stopping bullies at work – some people don’t complain because they wouldn’t want to hurt anyone else’s feelings or get someone fired. If they can’t choose between protecting themselves since that might mean harming someone else, they won’t be able to stop bullying.
While many other values and reasons can factor in, including important ones like keeping a job that puts food on the table or even survival. I hope you can see that if all of our values are held to be equally important, then when they contradict each other, we’ll be stuck. Or, if one value is always held to be most important, for example, non-violence, or being nice and sweet, or never disagreeing or upsetting someone, then we’re guaranteed to fail in some situations.
The way out of this impasse is to:
- Rank our values in importance; have a hierarchy of values. Then we know which one is more important in which situations. For example, is it more important that your children have contact with an angry, hostile, bullying, controlling, abusive, brutal parent because children need parents or is it more important for your to set an example of standing up to bullies and protecting them from being beaten, even if that means they don’t see that parent?
- Honor the most important values first. Don’t honor a lesser value if that means you won’t be able to honor a more important value. If honoring a more important value conflicts with a lesser value, honor the ones that are most important.
- Plan a strategy that’s most likely to succeed. Children tend to blurt things out. They think that if they’re right, that’s enough. Everyone will follow them or some protector will rescue them and make things right. Adults know that in order to succeed we often have to be careful in how we do things. And there may be no rescuer, no matter how right we are or what we think we deserve.
- Carry out the strategy with single-minded focus, determination, courage and perseverance. Be relentless in a good cause – your most important values.
- I am not recommending situational ethics; I am recommending situational tactics.
We won’t make things better for ourselves or our children by being a peacemaker. Tactics like begging, bribery, endless praise, appeasement, endless ‘second chances,’ unconditional love and the Golden Rule usually encourage more harassment, bullying and abuse. We won’t get the results we want; we won’t stop emotional bullies or physical bullying unless we’re clear about which values are more or less important to us.
We can use many techniques to clarify our patterns and to prioritize our values in a way that will make us more effective and successful. The take-home message is always to cut through impasses and solve our problems. Don't be a victim waiting forever for other people to protect you. Use your own power. Say “That’s enough!” Say “No!” Stopping bullies is more important than never using violence.