Let’s Talk

Bravery in Today’s Culture – Part 5

What If I Am the Family Bully?

 

Q. Could you please talk more about the dynamics of bullying? I am the bully in the family.

A. Let’s Talk!  Thank you so much for disclosing. Let’s see if we can uncover some truth to set you free. It is common in familiar circles like families for someone to be the corrector-in-chief. Communication is often disrespectful with eye-rolling or “the Look,” teasing, name calling, and many other hurtful messages including raging and disrespectful punishing (as opposed to discipline). It is such a trap because you may mean to be helpful, but the effect is damage to your important relationships. It is a misuse of authority to disrespect others when you are correcting or instructing. Let’s talk about other ways to accomplish being a leader without bullying.

First let’s talk about owning your bully behaviors. An idea is to have a family meeting and self-disclose (as you did with this column) that you see what you have been doing is “bullying.” Share your deep regret for harm done. “I have been wrong to ____. My behavior has been disrespectful and very hurtful, and I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?” You then need to build in some ways to change your behaviors so that you don’t revert back to the bullying. Some adult bullies have asked their children to make a hand signal or another cue when the bullying shows up again. Hopefully the correctors of your bullying will be kind and respectful. It is a good thing for families to keep seeking better ways to communicate.

Coercion is a first cousin to bullying. And, under most forms of coercion is fear. You may want to self-evaluate and see if coercion and fear are issues for you. Many people use coercion with people close to them for fear that if things aren’t done a certain way that bad things will happen. We don’t want to ever let fear drive us or our behaviors. This is a huge issue for your own mental/emotional/spiritual health. Many times I end my column with “Ask God to show you” and that is the case here. Ask Him to reveal any fear(s) in your life. You don’t want that stronghold. Moreover, ask Him to show you all of the issues in your choice of bullying behaviors; and ask Him to replace those behaviors with loving correction and instruction.

I hope you are not hearing me just say, “Quit it!” because I am not. It is a journey to make life changes and not an overnight destination. In summary, your disclosure that you are a bully is a huge first step. Kudos to you!! A second step is sharing with family or a wider circle. Thirdly, this change involves replacing the bullying behaviors with other more desirable behaviors. Hey, you are moving forward.

You as the parent or adult really can set the standard for loving, firm, and respectful leadership—void of bullying behaviors. Our world has become so full of the fruit of bullying such as verbal abuse that it almost seems “normal.” It is not the norm. Here’s the real model for us: Jesus had all authority, but was not a doormat, nor was He a bully. Ask Him to grant you a renewed leadership style that blesses all those around you. THAT is the pattern we all long for in our relationships and everyday lives.

For Deeper Reflection

 Colossians 3:8 – “But now, you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.”

Colossians 4:6 – “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.”

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

 

 

Let’s Talk

Bravery in Today’s Culture – Part 4     

What About the Family?  

 

Q. Could you please talk more about staying brave when people are bullying you in your own family? My teen is our bully!

 A. Let’s Talk! This is a tender subject, but it is good to talk. Thanks for sharing about your child. I am going to throw out some thoughts and hope they connect with your situation. I will speak in generalities since I don’t know the specifics. Many times a child bully or teen bully in a home is actually “acting out” what is happening to him/her. Is it possible that your child is being bullied at school or in the neighborhood? Remember the principle of patterning [repeating what is being done to them]? Moreover, sometimes children find it a shameful incident to be bullied and so won’t tell – and sometimes they have been threatened not to tell.

We have talked in earlier Let’s Talk conversations that it is important to “look under” the behavior. Does your child have some anger or hurt that is stuffed or buried? What we know about every behavior is that there is a reason or backstory for it. Sometimes we just need a little help exposing the reason(s). There IS a reason your child is choosing bully behaviors.

Here’s another interesting sidebar piece of information. Bullying in families always feels personal, but most of the time it is not. The hurtful behavior is about them and not about you. Secondly, sometimes the victims are the scapegoats because they are “safe” emotionally to the venting member of the family. It’s sort of like hitting a backboard to practice your tennis swing. You are just a convenient target. This does not make bullying okay – I am just sharing various possible elements underneath the behavior.

Do we ignore the bullying? No. Ignoring the bullying enables unhealthy behaviors to continue. It’s like ignoring the proverbial elephant in the living room. But, how does one start taking out the huge elephant? Telling your teen bully to just stop bullying is not wise. You want the bullying to stop, but don’t we need to address what’s under the bullying even more? A defiant bully will sternly resist an authoritative statement by you to “just quit it.” The result will be something like a tug of war without a rope.

Talking about what is under his/her behavior might be a wiser place to start. Here is a sample: “I am very concerned about your choice to bully members of our family. Could we talk about what you feel that you need? We want to help you. Your heart matters to us. You can try to share with us as your family, or we can seek counseling together to help us navigate this disrespect and anger . . . .”

What if YOU are the bully? That’s for next week! If you have questions about bullying, I would love to hear from you. Let’s Talk!
You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

For Deeper Reflection

Proverbs 4:23 “Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life.” (Actually, the whole chapter is inspiring.)

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

 

Let’s Talk

Bravery in Today’s Culture – Part 3

What About the Workplace?

 

Q. Would you please talk more about staying brave when people are bullying you in the workplace: both co-workers and your boss?

A. Let’s Talk! This is a hard one! Bullying in the workplace is akin to bullying in families—very sensitive and difficult to talk about—but talk we will do. Talking is brave! We are not in the business of trying to change or control others (actually bullies do that), but information can change us. This is what we can do:

A first aspect of workplace bullying is that it is alarmingly accepted and sometimes admired as “toughness.” Aggression and assertion in the workplace get twisted and are hard to separate at times. Assertion when appropriate is a good thing; aggression is not a good thing when it belittles or disrespects another. Our culture has become pretty aggressive, so this already sounds counter-cultural. Proof that aggression is not respectful is the uh-oh feeling in the pit of your stomach when it happens to you. Listen to that red flag. I bet you have a story or two or more.

There is also the issue of an imbalance of power. When someone in authority over you bullies you, there are a number of options. You can choose to ignore it, but as we talked about last week, that is not a healthy choice emotionally. In addition to your own resulting issues, you “enable” these toxic behaviors in the bully when you pretend the behaviors are not present. You can choose to change jobs, although in this economy, that might not be practical. However, could God be calling you to another situation and using this pressure to move you forward in your current work?

Another choice is a conversation. Remember the suggested line from my last column, “We have a problem. What do you think we need to do to make things better?” This is certainly respectful enough to say to a boss or another co-worker and is the start of a dialogue. You can also ask that a third person, such as a Human Resources rep, help the two of you work through this problem. Your part is the establishment of a boundary. It is never acceptable for someone to intimidate or to choose any of the other bullying behaviors we have discussed. It makes for a toxic workplace when bullying is accepted behavior. There is also the choice to go to a higher authority in the workplace if your boss is not open to getting help. It is not advisable to go over your boss’ head before first speaking with your boss, if possible.

If the bullying is sexual harassment , this is a legal issue and needs to be reported to a legal authority and not ignored or dismissed. There are countless other categories of bullying in the workplace, but the common denominator is for the victim to be BRAVE and set a boundary. This may mean talking about the discomfort and the disrespect. This is not easy, but it is appropriate and certainly a basic right to protect oneself: your heart, mind, and body.

As a summary: your main focus is to protect YOU, not changing the bully. If the words you speak to set that limit or boundary actually stop the bullying—great. But if the bully doesn’t change, you were proactive and brave. Next week we will talk about family bullying, but today choose to think about Ephesians 6:13 “having done all to stand.” We do what is right and all we should do—and then we stand.

At this point I need to make a disclaimer. Please prayerfully consider your situation because it is unique to you and vital to address. None of what I have mentioned above may be what you need to do to resolve your workplace bullying situation(s). My hope is to raise your awareness and help to clarify what you are experiencing. The Lord alone has the answers. Call unto Him!

For Deeper Reflection

Jeremiah 33:3  “Call to me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know . . . .”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

Stuffing Your Words vs. Speaking Up

Bravery in Today’s Culture – Part 2

Q. Would you please talk more about staying brave when someone is giving you “the look” or other hurtful messages of disrespect?

A. Let’s Talk! Last week, we talked about the broad range of disrespectful effects, all on a continuum of violence called bullying. I heard from a number of readers that had experienced great hurt from some of these “even more subtle” actions over their lifetime.

Immediately after someone gives you “the look” (or any of the other acts of disrespect on the list), it is very hard to know what to say or do. Whew! What an awful moment. Some ideas for replies from last week were: say “stop” or “please stop” or “that hurts.” If the disrespect continues, there is another line of communication that I can suggest. You might say, “We have a problem. What do you think we need to do to make things better?” You can even express this in writing after the fact. You as the “victim” are empowered by initiating conversation about the disrespect with your perpetrator. This a real victory even if the perpetrator refuses to respond. You have unstuffed and are BRAVE! You didn’t ignore or
minimize—yea!

Ignoring or stuffing our hurt is not a healthy choice. It leads to profound social/emotional issues with devastating consequences. Let me briefly share some data that I have been sharing for about 14 years. If you look at the studies about victims of molestation and other kinds of abuse, you will see indicators that when victims stuff their rage and focus on their perpetrator, about 95 percent of the time “patterning” is likely and the victim then becomes “like” his/her bully, repeating what was done to her/him. We become like that on which we focus.

You see this in the back stories of the high-profile school shooters for the last two decades. They were teased and taunted, but stuffed their rage (didn’t speak up) and focused on their bullies. Years later they became “like” their bullies because of the principle of patterning. This is not excusing, but is a life principle that hurt multiplies when rage is stuffed and not expressed. Speaking up is so vital! God has called us to reconciliation, recovery, and restoration, so our messages are bridges if the victims can be the BRAVE ones to initiate peace!

One of our readers told me about a song called “Brave,” by Sara Bareilles who is empowering young girls to speak up and speak out when someone hurts them. It is right on track. Check out “Brave” on youtube. Thank you, Sara. You go, girl!

It is just not OK to let others hurt us without our speaking up and setting a boundary. If you feel you can’t speak up, will you find someone to speak up for or with you? You really matter. And, let’s remember, the bully was once a victim himself that didn’t get help . . . and then the act was repeated.

For Deeper Reflection

Ephesians 4: 26, 31, 32 “Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

Proverbs 18: 21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue . . . .”

Psalm 15: 2-3 “[He who] walks in integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend . . . [will never be shaken].”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

Let’s Talk

 

 

Bravery in Today’s Culture  

   

Q. How do I stay brave when so much of our culture seems mean-spirited, aggressive, and violent?

A. Let’s Talk! Yes, when we hear about mass violence such as the Boston Marathon bombings, we shudder. We feel so vulnerable. But there are some acts of violence much closer to home that occur way too frequently. Interestingly enough, we can do something about these, and these actions help us to be brave. Let’s take a look.

Sadly, these other levels of violence are every bit as insidious. For example, you have seen that disrespect is rampant in our culture, haven’t you? Did you know that disrespect is a form of bullying and that bullying is violence? Really! Manifestations of disrespect lead to bullying in schools, the workplace, and even contribute to abusive relationships. We have almost become desensitized to bullying—excusing it and considering it “normal.” Bullying has infiltrated our homes, schools, and workplaces for decades. But, even though we cannot control others and outcomes generally, we can bravely attempt to establish strong and personal boundaries.

First, let’s look at a wider definition of bullying. Consider that bullying is a continuum of violence from nonphysical events on up to physical trauma. Examples of nonphysical bullying are spoken or unspoken disrespect such as shunning, eye-rolling, name-calling, teasing, taunting, and shameful or hurtful messages in person or on social media. Cyberbullying has risen to a crisis level. Physical bullying is more obviously seen as hitting, pushing, shoving, knifing, or raping. I share this list to raise our awareness of the many acts of violence around us—many that we may not have considered as violence. Shunning is every bit as damaging as a verbal or physical assault. It all hurts.

Our part is to protect our bodies and protect our hearts. I used to teach small children early in the school year a way to respond when disrespected. I asked them not to cave, TO BE BRAVE, and to hold up their hand in a stop position and say, “Stop” or “Please stop,” or “That hurts.” We cannot ignore any level of perpetration. If our “perp” chooses to continue, we need to get help from higher authorities and insist on accountability.

Recently, a father in Wisconsin was in the news on Facebook as standing behind his son:

Matthew Bent, whose son, Shiloh, was being victimized at school, posted a message saying he ‘stands behind my son in the fight against bullying.’ The reaction was enough to get the Kaukauna Area School District to notice.

We can bravely stand. We can bravely speak up. And we can bravely look up! We’ll look more at personal trauma next week and the consequences when we don’t draw a line in the sand.

For Deeper Reflection

Matthew 18: 15, 16 “And if your brother sins (or offends you), go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.”

 Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.