Most of us have been targets of harassment and bullying, but that doesn’t mean we must be the victims of bullies. If fact, when we’re not victims, we can more effectively stop bullying and abuse. For example, imagine a child who’s subjected to teasing, taunting, harassment and bullying at school.
It could be a boy targeted by one bully or a group or gang. The bullying could be physical or verbal – name-calling, ridiculing or demeaning.
Or consider a girl who’s targeted by the mean girls at school. She’s abused, harassed, cut-out and cut-down because she’s not as pretty or rich, doesn’t have the newest fashions or is liked by a boy who is wanted by one of the mean girls. All the girls pile on to attack the target, verbally, physically and by cyberbullying.
To make it worse, teachers and principals often do nothing to protect targets. Sometimes, they don’t know what to do or they’re afraid to confront bullies and their bullying parents or they blame the target. Sometimes, they even enable, encourage or collude with the bullying. Sometimes the mean girls are encouraged by their parents, who are happy their daughters are in the in-crowd and couldn’t care less about the target.
Often, principals and teachers focus on changing the targets. These irresponsible authorities seem to think that if only the targets would change and please their attackers, the nasty kids would stop targeting them. Or they think bullying is natural selection, survival of the fittest, so anyone who can’t blend in should suffer the consequences of being different. Or they think it’s merely kids being kids and the persecutors will eventually outgrow their youthful indiscretions.
I hope I’ve made you mad about the injustice of these situations. These are not far-fetched situations. I get many coaching calls from frustrated parents who have tried, without success for more than six months, to stop the bullies and make the teachers, principals and district administrators protect their children.
Victims think they’re to blame. Victims minimize, ignore, forgive, appease, beg, bribe, are nice, accept excuses and justifications, sympathize with and try to understand and use reason with relentless, real-world bullies. Victims use the Golden Rule to stop these ignorant, insensitive predators. Victims suffer in silence. Eventually, victims accept the abuse and bullying. Victims give in to fear, despair and defeat; they give up; they feel helpless and hopeless. They’re overwhelmed by anxiety, stress, negative self-talk and self-doubt. They lose confidence and self-esteem. Often, they suffer from depression and an increased risk of suicide. Do-nothing principals are always involved in school bullying-caused suicides of victims.
Targets keep a fire burning inside them. They don’t take it personally; they know they’re okay and the fault lies with the bullies, their narcissistic parents and the failures who are running their schools. They fight and learn how to fight better. They maintain their courage, strength, determination, endurance, perseverance and resilience; they're not defeated by defeat. Targets seek allies who are willing to act together – not merely whine, complain and feel sorry together.
Targets may be angry at the injustice, but they’re not overwhelmed and beaten down. Since we can’t win every battle, even if justice is on our side, targets may simply move on and create a wonderful life somewhere else. And hope that someday, they can get their oppressors.
We can see the same distinction between targets and victims in wives or husbands who are criticized, corrected, scolded, chastised, controlled, isolated, subjected to hostility, jealousy and negativity, manipulated and blamed, shamed and guilt-tripped, and beaten by their controlling spouses. The task of these adult targets is the same as that of the kids. Don’t be a victim. Don’t take it personally; learn how to resist, say, “That’s enough,” say “No.” Get help, take your own power, fight back, get away, start poor if you have to but start again.
You may be a target, but don’t be a victim. Learn to be skillful in fighting back. And fight to win. That’s our best chance of stopping bullies.