Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Stop the Bully; Within and Without

This month we are teaching Kindness as a function of Strength to our students, young and old.  I am aware that most dojo's don't teach such childish concepts to adults or teens, but all segments of our society need to understand the ebb and flow of power, and the effects of its use, intended or unintended, so we teach it to everyone.  How else do we certify someone as a black belt with our name or school if they don't stand up to the heritage of which they seek to become part of?

We teach it as a hard and fast rule; be kind or you are not being a black belt. 

Yet, we don't actually believe or think that way.  Oh, we might say we do, and cover aggression by saying we are being kind when we exert ourselves.  We say things like, "It's for their own good," or, "if they don't learn what the real world is like, they will have a bad life," but most of the time we are really protecting ourselves or our own interests.

Example: someone is robbing you. No gun is involved, just rudeness and aggression.  What do you do?  I don't know about you, but I have been fighting in one for or another since 1971, so fighting back is neither difficult to imagine or hard to initiate. Most people would just stop the aggression with either attitude from strength, facing down potential violence with assurance of their ability to withstand the likely or possible attack, or outright subdue the aggressor.  They would be both justified legally and morally.  You might even hear someone say that you are doing the aggressor a kindness by showing him that their are consequences to his actions, thereby starting his rehabilitation and eventual integration into polite society.

But upon reflection, I don't have enough information to make the determination. A theatric parable for this situation can be drawn from Les Misérables where a french citizen has his freedom and life irrevocably altered because he stole a loaf of bread.  His choice was to let his family die or steal the bread.  He stole the bread, and was chased the rest of his life.  If they did him the kindness of a fine or local incarceration rather than Devils Island, he would have been a great force for good, as the rest of the story proved.  Yet, that is not what happened. Instead countless lives were eventually lost for a lack of compassion and kindness.

It's easy to justify your behavior based on someone else's behavior, or even your own circumstances. It is even easier to justify your behavior as self protection if that is applicable. The problem is when you compare the Black Belt virtue of kindness to the definition of being a bully.  If you find that you are manipulating situations to ensure that other people's behaviors conform to your needs or desires, you might be a bully.  Worse, if you are using emotions or physical force to ensure your comfort you are being a bully.

Sure, you might have justification or reason, but when you compare that behavior to what a black belt is supposed to be, it is hard to escape the realization that a Bully might have been born.

If we find ourselves under attack, physical, emotional, or otherwise, it is natural to defend ourselves and perhaps this reaction is even correct, depending on the nature of the attack. However, if you are strong enough, you can deflect the bully with kindness, the stronger emotion and behavior of the two.  The problem is, the attack of a bully is seldom fully disclosed or understood, and if you stand it alone, under your own power, and try to deflect it with kindness, you run the risk of destruction from two fronts.  The first is that the original bully may win out, as your energy and good intentions weaken and perhaps collapse.  

Second, you might discover that your own behavior towards other has altered.  You start defending yourself from further emotional damage by closing your life down to insult and injury, and when you do that, you will find that you are manipulating your family and friends to your own needs and ends.  That is being a bully.  

Kindness has to be the fulcrum around which our actions revolve, not self defense.  Mistakes are made when we become self centered in our approach to life, even if it is short term.

The best way to stop a bully may not be with personal strength, though that give you time and an edge, but the best way may require intervention from friends or other inclined to make the world a better place.  This is a human issue and must be addressed by all of us.  

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