This is a subject that has been getting a lot of press lately, and for good reasons. It is a subject that needs to be understood in order to be properly addressed. There are several dynamics at work, so to begin let me say that, since everything in creation is composed of energy, it is basically the negative energy of bullying that has to be neutralized with positive energy. Let me illustrate with my own first experience of the way this works.
A neighbor’s child was having difficulty relating to his peers so his mother, angered by her son’s treatment, arrived at my friend’s home with a list of complaints. When she finished shouting, I calmly said to her, “You’re right,” and then continued to agree with some of her arguments. I was surprised, back then, that this immediately had a calming effect on the irate parent and we were able to discuss solutions to the problem. What I didn’t understand at that time was that, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”(Proverbs 15:1) Since then I have found many instances when this is true.
So how does this relate to bullying? First of all consider the bully who is the source of the negative energy. This may come from anger, jealousy, intolerance, egotism, or possibly wanting to be liked by peers. These all stem from an inner need, whatever it happens to be, and is negative energy that will be acted out in a negative way to satisfy that need. It is the manifestation of a soul whose energy is not in harmonious balance and requires change. But that change can only come from inside that person. Nothing outside that person can make that change. That person has to recognize the need to change and implement it on their own. They can be encouraged to do good, shown good example, taught to use different manners of behavior, or even punished, but unless they are willing to change themselves, change will not be forthcoming.
So what are we left with? The only thing we can change is ourselves. I’ll say it again – the only thing we can change is ourselves. If we are not willing to do that, we’re back at square one and the negative energy has won. It will grow into more hurt feelings, more anger, more conflict, and more acting out – possibly even leading to destructive actions because negative energy feeds on more negative energy and grows stronger.
What is the answer? The answer is always LOVE – – but it is a little complicated.
I’ll relate a story about the Buddha which has appeared in different forms but essentially has the points that I want to make. The story goes something like this: there was a highly educated man who saw the Buddha and began to hurl insults at him. The Buddha sat calmly and didn’t reply. When the man asked how he could stay so calm without answering his taunts the Buddha asked him a question – “If food is presented to a person and that person refuses the food, to whom does the food belong?” The obvious answer given by the educated man was that the food belonged to the giver. He then understood that the insults he had hurled at the Buddha belonged only to himself because they had not been accepted by the Buddha.
This story illustrates the following dynamics:
First – we can only give what we have. The educated man had only animosity and pride to give. The Buddha had understanding , compassion, tolerance, and love to give.
Second – we have the ability to make choices, not only about what we give but also about what we receive. The Buddha had no need for the negative energy so he chose not to receive it. In this way the negative energy was not supported and it could no longer continue.
Third – the Buddha understood that the educated man felt diminished in the presence of the Buddha and required a way to feel more powerful, but the Buddha possessed self-love and had no karmic need for the “food” that was being offered.
How do we make this lesson useful for ourselves?
Let’s first consider the person being bullied. It has been said that if we could see the actions that brought on such circumstances, we would not be so upset by them. This is because karma is playing out in order to balance an unbalanced energy. Whatever has been sown – regardless of the time frame – will be reaped. The only way karma can be balanced is through grace – the use of energetically positive virtues such as tolerance, patience, humility, love etc. Those who are bullied, but do not have the awareness of a Buddha, probably have encountered a situation in which they have been given the opportunity to learn a needed lesson. They can choose an action which will satisfy that karma and bring grace, or one that will create another encounter of the same sort. By expressing additional negative energy toward the bully, thereby “feeding” the negative energy, the negative energy will become stronger and escalate the tension leading to additional confrontations. But by understanding that the bully is in need of compassion, tolerance and love, the person who is being bullied can release their karma by offering a hand of friendship, or by responding in a way to let the bully know his remarks have no effect, or by calmly walking away.
It is necessary to understand that negative energy feeds on more negative energy and cannot survive without it. To stop a bully’s taunts it is wise not to react in an unconscious manner by absorbing the energy into self. It is better to consciously respond, rather than to unconsciously react with more negative words and/or actions. A kind response shows that the negative energy is not doing its job because it has not been accepted.
If the bully gets physical it requires some action, but only after a conscious response is given such as, “I understand you want to fight but I think it would be a lot nicer to be friends.” If this doesn’t work it may require intervention by proper authorities such as teachers, parents or police. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” the stick being the strength within, in the form of self-worth, or the strength without, in the form of a higher authority.
Most importantly, it is necessary to understand that we are all beings of light, children of God, regardless of outer appearances or actions. When we are able to connect fully with that idea it is easier to love ourselves and to love others in the same way. Self-love is a feeling of self-worth and has nothing to do with ego or self-aggrandizement. It is recognizing, in all humility and love, that we are temples of God who is our innate spiritual being. Once this is achieved it becomes a power within us – the rod and staff that supports us, the strength that protects us.
These ideas may not come easily in the beginning, but the effort to use love instead of fear is well worth the time and trouble. Peace of mind is possible only when it is found inside one’s heart and then given to all who need it. These are lessons from the Masters down through the ages – love your neighbor – do unto others as you would have them do unto you – do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.