A few years ago at age nineteen, I was sitting in church on just an ordinary Sunday. I was relaxed and feeling at home around my friends and family. Next to me sat my handsome fiancé, (now husband), with his hand in mine. I began to scout the audience casually as my mind wandered a bit, (it happens during sermons sometimes), and suddenly my eyes stopped on one particular individual. My heart rate picked up and my body got into full blown fight or flight mode… it was one of my childhood bullies sitting before me as an adult.
Even scarier, after the church service, this girl came over to the row where my friends and I sat and greeted them… not me, but them. How did she know my friends? And oddly enough she seemed to not remember me.
My friends introduced us and if I had any doubt it was her, the sound of her name struck fear in my heart. I simply said hello and went along with this game of her’s, pretending we didn’t know each other.
This girl continued to show up to my church and hang around my friends. We even started to talk to one another casually, (though each word out of my mouth likely came across in a tremor).
One day it came up in conversation that we went to the same school in junior high. It was then that I decided I’d attempt to bring up our awkward past.
“I don’t know if you remember this”, I started, “but we didn’t really get along in junior high”. “Oh yeah!”, this girl said nonchalantly, “I probably bullied you. I bullied a lot of people. I was going through a lot… sorry”.
I was in shock but I did my best to play it cool, “oh yeah. I totally get that! It was no big deal”.
This experience made me realize that bullies aren’t simply evil people constantly on the hunt for their prey. They are people that one day, (hopefully), will change and realize the error of their ways.
In light of that I’ve resorted to learn how to approach the issue of dealing with bullies as an adult. It turns out some things don’t go away as we get older, they just become easier to cover up.
I’ve found that bullying as an adult can come in many shapes and forms. It can look like:
- Talking negatively behind someone’s back.
- Using sarcasm.
- Purposefully doing an action you know has/can/will hurt someone inside.
Now I think to myself, if another adult is bullying me how would I respond if I knew this person would return to me years later and apologize. I think I would do my best to get away from them. If I’m not near them, then I’m no longer a target and they don’t have to feel the temptation to bully.
In a situation where perhaps there’s no way around being in close proximity to this person, I would not respond to these acts of bullying. This may look like ignoring comments or playing ignorant to moments something hurtful is said in a direct manner. This way, hopefully in the future they would be able to say something like, “man I tried hard to get on your nerves and you were so patient with me”.
Of course all in all, if bullying is truly hurting you, especially in the work place or at home; you’ve got to tell someone in authority. And if that person in authority doesn’t listen, (which is often the case as an adult), then talk to the ultimate one in authority, God.
I guess my point in all of this is, everyone deserves an opportunity to save face. Especially when it’s someone you believe would regret their acts of bullying later. I mean even spouses/family members/friends can bully each other. If reasoning doesn’t work then just help these guys out by walking away.