Bullies in real life

This morning I was given reason to reflect on a person I knew in my childhood and it got me to thinking about “bullies” and how people treat each other, and some of the fallout that can come from living life from perspective of a 'bully'.  I have to admit, there’s a person in my family who’s nothing short of a bully, themselves, and as much as it pains me to admit it – because I love them pretty deeply – that’s what they are.  It’s what they’ve always been, and it breaks my heart to know it because we’re family.  

I see a lot of parallel themes in the lives of this acquaintance I knew in my childhood, and this family member who could never seem to grasp the concept that some of the things they were taught to believe when they were in their most impressionable years were just plain wrong.  No matter what anyone did to try and get them to understand their point of view about people, life, and their impact on others – nothing ever seemed to take.  They learned … nothing.  Even worse, I dare say, anything they did learn they used as a manipulation tool to be even more wretched to others.  The word “tragedy” doesn’t even come close to describing the situation this family member has chosen to take, regardless of the effects left upon them by their early years.  After a certain point, when it’s been become overwhelmingly evident that the influences that fostered this type of aggressive mentality have been removed from any person’s life (they become 18 years old and leave the home environment they learned these anti-social behaviors in, as an example) for an extensive period of time, people tend to expect these negative behaviors to change.  The community becomes a person’s moral and ethical frame of reference, and community standards for being socially conscious are reinforced both subtly (common courtesy, manners, etc…) as well as obviously (police intervention).  The signs are there.  No child grows into adulthood without being reminded, repeatedly, by teachers, coaches, mentors, and peers, that certain aggressive (mentally, spiritually, emotionally) behaviors are simply not on point in a world view sort of perspective.  This concept isn’t just an imaginary thing; as in, “you can’t be a bully and expect things to work out in your favor”.  Every single one of us needs our community to succeed.  We do.  If you don’t believe it – think about it.  Think about every interaction you have in an average day, and how being a wretched human being to any number of those people you deal with can have an echo effect that leaves an impression, so lasting, you actually stick out from the crowd – from the town… from the city…

Getting directly to the point of what hit me so hard this morning … I’ve seen this person’s story – the one that prompted me to think so deeply on this subject today – out and about, repeatedly, over the past couple of years.  I had completely lost track of them by the time High School came around, but before that I (and others) knew them to be highly manipulative, mean when it suited them, vindictive, but yet still quite socially functional.  They had friends and always seemed to seek out social circles which they were included in, and apparently thrived, but there was always this razor sharp edge that would appear when least expected.  I dare say, completely out of the blue – mind games, psychological warfare, to a degree.  Manipulative coersions of people that really seemed to be born out of no circumstance directly related to their target.  Sounds like I’m explaining a sociopath, but I wouldn’t know for certain.  I’m not qualified to make that assessment and I certainly wasn’t even aiming at suggesting it.  Only that this person was a bully in school, and their targets were quite random and numerous.  And yet they never seemed to lack friends or a social structure they took pride in.  It always made me wonder what kind of people were ok with knowing this type of person was among them?  And how did they handle the way this person treated others?  Did they not care?  Were they unaffected?  Did they just wave it off as “that’s just the way they are” and it didn’t matter?   I can tell you they didn’t bother me all too much because they weren’t in my grade, but I saw what they did to others, and we all knew what was going on and were careful to watch out for each other.

But today… in our adult years … I get hit with reminders that this person is still around, and when I look at their life I’m reminded that everything we do matters.  Everything we think.  Everything we say.  Everything we don’t say, and don’t do, when we really should be doing or saying something… it all matters.  It matters in every stage of our lives.  

This person is just as miserable now as I figured them to be in our childhood.  Didn’t matter that they always dressed nice, had the latest fashions, friends all around them, all the best toys, confidence enough in themselves to actually humiliate peers whenever the occasion arose … Nope.  Today, as an adult, they’re what I consider to be a complete and utter failure at life.   Is there a word more powerful than “totality”? Because that’s how obvious their failure has been, and it couldn’t be more obvious to anyone who’s paying attention.  

I think back to my childhood and I remember being raised by an incredibly socially conscious & compassionate person who always reminded me how important it is to think about others while making decisions that may affect them.  Even if the decision is about myself, it will inevitably affect someone else.  So, think before you decide.  Think before you act.  And as hard as that was to do, I usually ended up on the bottom end of the food chain we’ve all experienced during some version of elementary, middle, junior, and even high school.  I’m pretty sure it bothered me to some degree, never knowing why other kids seemed to get away with being self centered egotists all the time, and why I was supposedly doing things “the right way” but always wound up at the bottom of the pile in this chapter our lives we call “childhood”.  But nevertheless, there I stood.  Kind of confused(?) by the circumstances of what I just mentioned, but confident in myself because I was behaving in a way that didn’t make me feel like crap every day.  Because, honestly, we all dabble in the darker sides of 'experience' at some point or another.  Hopefully, most of us do so when we’re really young, acquire an intimate distaste for all things “wretched”, and we move on our saintly way toward greatness in adulthood.  Right?

But no – not everyone.  And this person is reaping the rewards (consequences) of a life lived self-centeredly.  Friends that betray them in the absolute worst of ways, family life that’s been torn apart multiple times, low paying jobs that go nowhere, no further education than a high school diploma – so opportunities aren’t very prevalent, a solo physical home life that has them bouncing from one uncertain rental to the next – year after year, vehicles that aren’t dependable… but hey, they have a wicked social life, still!  Partying is still a thing and they can’t wait for the weekend to arrive!  Too bad those weekends don’t last forever, huh?  I wonder if anyone has ever said that to them… hmmm….

And the thing for me is – when I look at their situation?  Is that they never even know why they’re so miserable 5 days out of 7.  They never know why life is such a struggle. They haven’t figured out that today matters for tomorrow.  Still.  After all these years and all of these disappointments, they never figured it out that the people who tried to tell them to “do this, not that, because it’s better for everyone – including you” were right – and that doing things those ways will bring them comfort, stability, and happiness.

I suppose, in some way, it does bother me that this bully – and especially the bully in my family – will eventually be this retired 65+ year-old “old person” who has, essentially, nothing of substance to show for their lives.  That’s what affects me the most.   I see myself as a crotchety old lady, rocking back and forth in my old-lady rocking chair, pissed because I can’t climb mountains any more, and I can’t travel like I used to, and I can’t do all the things that made life worth living, anymore.  Their regrets will be so deeply and personally cavernous, they’ll never have known the magnitude of the awesomeness there was to be experienced in this life because all they cared about were things so immediate and trivial – in the grand scheme – that when they finally do realize there was more … they’ll be unable to do anything about it.  By the time they figure it out, it'll be too late.   

By the time they figure out you need to be nice to your ‘neighbor’ – their ‘neighbor’ has already written them off.
By the time they figure out that a college or trade school education often leads to occupational opportunities, not just ‘jobs’ – they’re too old to make use of it.
By the time they figure out their occupational opportunities could have put them into their own home – they’ll have little investment potential in buying one.
By the time they figure out their own home would have been a perfect place to raise a family that feels safe, secure, and cared for – they’ll have grandkids who don’t visit because their home has always been just a place rented.
By the time they figure out their family doesn’t feel the need, or desire, to visit them – they’ll be in their twilight years wishing they had done a good many things a little bit differently… any many of those things the way they were modeled by people whose lives were working out the way they wished theirs had.

While I think about these things whenever I’m reminded of this person (these 2 people, actually), I look at my life then, when we were kids, and I remember back to how I sometimes felt it was unfair they were getting away with the things they did.  But when I look at my life now, I see this person’s experience, and I realize … yeah… what you might expect … they didn’t get away with anything.  They just kept on doing things their way until they wound up here –  nowhere good – without a single prospect of making anything better for themselves in their own future.    Oh, they’ll make it from here to there, no doubt.  But that’s it.  That’s the end of their story.  

And in my reflections I try and suppress this overwhelming feeling that rises up within me, that they’re reaping what they sowed, and that’s all on them.  

Because we all live the life we design, whether we want to admit that openly or not.  

If you have a crap social circle full of people who aren’t going anywhere with their lives – that’s your own doing.

If you don't recognize your social circle for what it is – that's a disservice you're providing yourself.

If you’re surrounded by “friends” who encourage you to be a lesser version of the “best” person you can be – then you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel because you want to.

If you chose not to seek a higher education because you don’t like homework – then you very likely chose a lifelong financial struggle that will never seen an end.

If you’re working a dead end job that has a definite ceiling for advancement opportunities – that’s all you.

If you chose to work in a ‘field’ that pays just enough for you to make your rent and junky used car payment – you should have chosen better.

If you choose to live for the weekends so you could have fun with your friends while you leave your family behind – you should have spent more time investing in the realization that your family is the greatest gift your life will ever offer.

I’m not above the thought, or feelings, that this childhood bully is living the life they designed for themselves, and there’s even a little part of me that initially responds with “they’re getting what they deserve”.  But that’s far too vindictive to hold onto because I haven’t a single personal feeling for this person, whatsoever.  I guess it’s just something that people say so often, and that we hear so often (“they’re getting what they deserve”), that it’s the first thing that comes to mind.  Honestly, I don’t know what this person deserves out of life.  But I do know, as they’ve made extremely crystal clear, that they aren’t the least bit happy with where they are – and based on how they treated others, and the moral and ethical standards they’ve lived their life by – I don’t feel bad for them.  We all choose our path.

Put your faith and trust in people and people will learn to have have faith and trust in you.

Invest in yourself – for your tomorrow.   Take your family with you.  Never give up on them and they’ll never give up on you.

Be good.  To everyone.  Always.

When in doubt – Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want done to, or around, your grandmother.

Pay now – Play later.  Metaphorically speaking: “Put nothing on credit”.  The struggle is real, for everyone, in every way.  Struggle now, enjoy the rewards later.

You know the fable about the grasshopper and the ant?  Well… be the ant … because winter is coming.

If only these bullies would have found a reason within themselves to do just some of these
things … 

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