Year seven and living in Devon. On the public bus home I’m seating in the middle of the bus reading my book (I don’t have many friends and I love books) when i hear a boy jeer at another boy. He tells him to not move from the middle otherwise it might tip the bus. Said boy looks very upset (understandably). I look up and tell the bully “there’s no need to be mean, why did you say that?” or something to that extent (this is nearly 13 years ago) but what I know for a fact is that I posed a question because he proceeded to sit down next to me and he opened up in a way that I didn’t expect an 11 year old boy would do. He told me about how he gets bullied by his friends during break and he was just angry and took it out on the unsuspecting boy. I told him that he should talk to his friends about their behaviour and not to bully other people otherwise the bullying circle would never end. He agreed and thanked me for talking to him.
This train of thought came about because I saw a “meet the artist” illustration and it got me thinking about my dislikes and i thought long about it. I thought that maybe i would put unkind people in my dislike pile but I remembered my bus story and I realised that i don’t dislike them, i feel compassion for them. For the hurt that they must be feeling and probably have felt for a long time for them to be unable to show compassion or kindness to themselves, let alone other people. And how its so much easier to just plonk people in labels; nice, kind, mean, bully. By plonking them in labels its kind of just saying that is just what you are and takes away the need to sympathise.
It also reminded of one of the podcast episodes of the guilty feminists and how a member of the audience shared that she had been met by hostility by her female coworkers for going to the podcast event and for being a feminist and she asked advice about how to best deal with situations like this in the future. The host suggested to pose questions to the person dishing out the hostility, so for 11 year old Sara it was questioning the bullies behaviour and for the female with hostile coworkers it would be to question them on what they don’t like about feminist and then we are to get a better view of the reasoning behind their actions and ways in which we can tackle their hostility.
I don’t think anyone is grumpy, mean or a bully just for the joy of it. They are suffering and sometimes all it can take is a question for that person to question their actions. So next time someone is mean to you because you’re a feminist, a vegan or you were simply their target for their anger, pose them a question. And not simply “why are you a dickhead?” but more along the lines of “what is it about feminist that you disagree with?” or “why do you say that?”. Questions that allow them to self reflect, however they might just carry on being nasty and life is too short to emotionally drain yourself with fruitless arguments and sometimes the best thing is just to remove yourself from the equation and carry on with your merry life.