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There's No Age Limit on Bullying

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Many have fallen by the edge of the sword, but many more have fallen by the tongue. Blessed is one who has been sheltered from it, and has not experienced its fury.
Ecclesiasticus 28:18-19

I'm now a crone. Great word for a woman of a certain age. Look it up to really appreciate the meaning. There was a time when becoming a crone was a great honour, a place of importance in the community.

I have become a friend of another crone, Barbara Kay. Through our email and Facebook friendship I discovered that we've led parallel lives. Amongst other things, we both discovered our voices as crones in our 60s. And we've both been graced with an audience. Barbara is celebrating her 10th anniversary as a columnist at the National Post. I have the pleasure of writing for the Canadian magazine Convivium: Faith in our Common Life, The Times of Israel, and of course, Huffington Post.

I received an email one day from Barbara about the need to develop a thick skin when one writes for the public. There is no age limit on bullying.

When I was eight-years-old I was bullied by my public school principal, Mr. Salmon. Can't forget him. I was sent to his office for using rude language. I'd never heard the words that he accused me of saying. I just remember looking up-way up-he seemed at least 10 feet tall. He had his hands on my shoulders shaking me, telling me that if I didn't admit to the "crime" I would be suspended. That was enough to for me. I plead guilty because I wanted to go home. People will admit to many things when afraid. Bullies know that.

I have been bullied on line and it brought back memories of Grade 3. Trust me when I tell you that it doesn't take much to inflict pain on most human beings. We can't always avoid the pain, but we can control our reaction.

Too often I've read of young people who've been beaten down by on-line bullying. They read the hurtful comments over and over. I have found myself pulled to those mean-spirited comments, too-like a magnetic field I cannot break. Reading nasty comments about yourself hurts you. Sadly, those of us who live with depression have greater difficulty turning off the comments. You cannot control what is written about you, or said about you but you can and must control your response. Don't look and don't listen. Yes, easier said than done, at any age.

Bullies want to scare you and define you; tell you who you are often before you even know yourself; describe you before you get a chance to become you. Like negative political ads. Attack, attack, attack.

I've been called callous, dogmatic, and narrow minded. I've been told my opinion for humankind is sorely deluded and my religion is based on fear. I've even been told my religious affiliation. Apparently I'm a right-wing social conservative, tea-party Christian who enjoys watching people suffer. I read,

I hope when she is sick and getting ready to go to her god this chaplain suffers a long and painful death w/o compassion and care. She only wants to judge others and call them awful names in the name of her God.


And my favourite: "I wish this woman would stick to cleaning teeth and preaching to the mentally incompetent. Just because you can blog, doesn't mean you should."

Ad hominem, personal attacks on one's character add nothing to the conversation but can do a great deal of damage to one's self-esteem. We need to accept that just as no one gives us self-esteem; no one can take it away. We develop self-esteem by doing, by succeeding. We lose self-esteem, not because someone takes it away, but because we let it go-we let bullies, frightened little people, many of them, today, lacking any courage of their convictions, hiding behind screen names on-line, convince us that there's something wrong with us and somehow we end up giving away pieces of ourselves.

Don't give them the satisfaction. Remember no one can take away your self. You can lose an arm or a leg, but the self remains whole.

The journey of becoming human includes finding your own voice, your own sense of self. Find your voice, your voices. Hang out with people that are like you, no matter how odd you think you might be there is someone out there a lot like you, looking for you, too.

Remember, you're not alone in your fears and anxieties. Trust me, we've all been there. Some people just hide it better than others. Some people "find" themselves sooner (I'm still searching. I hope my search doesn't end until I take my last breath). Some people just seem more self-confident. They act more self-confident. But, we all need community. We were never meant to live alone, hidden away, dwelling in silence. Those self-confident people tend to be surrounded by others-perhaps that feeds their sense of self.

Your interests will change over time. I hated English throughout my years at school, including university when I was forced to take a course even though I took sciences my first time through. When you find something you like, be passionate about it. Trust that inner voice. And if you are teased about being different, or called a nerd, be proud; some of the greatest people in the world, the greatest movers and shakers were "nerds" and rather odd. Einstein, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gogh. Stephen Spielberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg, and my favourite -- Temple Grandin; a remarkable woman with autism who revolutionized cattle farming.

Not everyone can be part of the choir. There are the few who are different and become soloists. How dismal and dull the world would be without the different, the odd, the unusual.

Winston Churchill wrote: "You have enemies? Good. That means you have stood up for something in your life." Bullies don't stand up for anything. They tear down. They covet. They do that to fill their empty spaces while those who are bullied are seeking something and often that something is different from the every day.

When you get bullied, know that you touched a nerve. While you think of yourself as weak, there is something strong about you that frightens the bully. Hold on to that.

Then, do as God said to Abraham and Sarah -- go forth, and do and become.

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