Friday, June 27, 2014

Why retaliation?

retaliate  (rɪˈtælɪˌeɪt)
1. ( intr ) to take retributory action, esp by returning some injury or wrong in kind
2. ( intr ) to cast (accustations) back upon a person
3. rare  ( tr ) to avenge (an injury, wrong, etc)

In the last couple of weeks I've had a couple of close encounters with retaliation. Frankly, I don't understand it. We live in this culture where everyone is hyper-sensitive and hyper-aware of "bullying" and the mean-ness is being dished out all over the place. Frankly, I believe that most bullying originates from a place of feeling bullied. It is a power thing. But why? Why do we as human beings feel that we (or our loved ones) must be avenged? Is it the bully-culture? Is it the movies we watch? What is going on?

Last week my son, who is not always an angel, but is truthfully the kindest and most outwardly aware child I've met in all my life, was playing soccer with some cousins, older and younger. I still don't understand all the circumstances but the older cousin kicked my son in the foot, really hard. Because this older cousin is sometimes a tease and my son doesn't know how to take that because he is only usually teased by his dad, he automatically thought this kick was on purpose. My husband had been outside and watched it happen and also thought, since it could have been prevented but wasn't, that it might have been done purposefully as well. Without giving any heed or caution to this older cousin's feelings, or to where he was coming from, or his side of the story, I stormed into the middle of the family gathering where he was now sitting with his family, and pointed my finger at him and said loudly for all to hear, "Did you kick my son?" To which he replies, completely surprised by my accusation in such a setting (because I am not normally like this), "Well he kicked me too!" To which I respond, "He is 11 and you are 17 and much stronger, that shouldn't matter!"  His response, "I didn't do it on purpose. Does he think I kicked him on purpose? It was an accident!"

At this point I see his mother, a very kind and reasonable person, look at me wide-eyed and surprised at my method of delivery in handling this. Her look makes me think twice, I calm down and try to pretend all is okay and that this awful and awkward situation didn't happen. Yeah, right. This awesome older cousin comes into the house five minutes later where my son has his swollen foot propped up with ice on it and sincerely apologizes for what happened. After a few minutes I go to find his mom to apologize for my immature behavior and find out her son has left the party shamed and embarrassed. I did that to him.  A good kid, who made a mistake, like all of us do, left our family gathering because of me. His mom, my friend, asked me kindly to pull him aside next time and try to calmly find out what happened instead of "embarrassing both him and yourself." Point taken.

I've never reacted that way to someone outside my own home before. I fly off the handle all the time within the walls of my own home (which I know needs to change, because I'll only be perpetuating this whole bully cycle), but never to someone younger than me, though while almost an adult, is still a child. I can't begin tell you how ashamed I felt. As a result, I, too, left the party with my family without saying goodbye to anyone. Ready to crawl into the smallest hole I could find. Sleep did not come easy that night.

As fate and karma, or whatever you want to call it, would have it the very next day this same son of mine had just lost a baseball game, by a lot. My son is a good sport and realizes that relationships are more important than winning a game. He went out and congratulated the other team on their win and that was that. Later that night we got a very crude and cuss-filled text from the coach/parent of the opposite team calling my son names and telling my husband what an awful parent he was and how all respect for him and my son was lost because my son allegedly told his kid, "You suck" claiming that there was at least two other "witnesses" who are "Mormons" who also heard my son say this. So we asked my son what happened and he was shocked! First of all, my son doesn't say things like that. Second, if he did and realized that a problem was created and someone's feelings were hurt, he would be the first to admit it an apologize; that's just the kind of kid he is. Third, why in the world is an adult man assuming the worst about another kid and then attacking him in this manner? He wasn't looking for a life lesson to be learned here, or even an apology. He just wanted to inflict damage and pain on my son. To shame him and make him feel small.

Light bulb goes on. That is exactly what I did to the older cousin last night. Assuming the worst and then flying off the handle. Wow I hate karma. Sad thing is, this coach/parent/supposed adult has taken it too far. The mom got involved also, all via texting mind you, and excuses her (and her husband's) behavior by saying, "When someone hurts my kid the mama bear comes out." I recognize this same feeling as it is the one I instinctively went with the night before, but now in my calmer state, find it absolutely ridiculous that we excuse poor, mean, and immature behavior all in the name of protecting and defending our children, instead of teaching them that bad things sometimes happen, no one is perfect, I'm sorry that happened to you, but let's not assume the worst about another person, ad most importantly let's not retaliate, period.

By the way, the next day my son made a point to find the boy who had been "wronged" and apologized that his feelings were hurt and reassured him that he didn't think he "sucked" and thought he was a good person and a good ball player and wouldn't say something hurtful to him. Since then, this kid's dad ignores my son and husband except for when he laughs and mocks my son openly in public at ball games when he makes mistakes. Good example, dad.

Then yesterday we attended a funeral of a sweet girl who took her own life. There were many circumstances involved that culminated in the act, one of which was bullying. Upon scrolling through her older brother's Facebook page this morning, I found a "threat" he wrote to whoever bullied her that he would find out who they were and he would come after them. He, too, was bullied very badly in high school.  And while I really don't believe he would do anything harmful to anyone, why do we instantly react this way? We bully right back. We retaliate. Tit for that, Eye for eye, Tooth for tooth. Not only do we retaliate, but we have now started this sad cycle of taking two teeth for the one you took from me. Take both eyes for the one you took from me. Not only should you pay but you should also suffer for what you did. Compensation plus more so that I am back on top and more powerful than you for what I think you did to me.

Why?I don't understand this human reaction? This mama bear/papa bear reaction? This, I have to avenge the wrongs that have been committed by issuing more wrongs through vengeance and cruelty.

I have been bullied. I get criticized. Everyday I'm made to feel small in some way, either by myself or an outside source. Sometimes I can take it in and move forward constructively with it and see that maybe that person is having a really hard day, maybe that person didn't realize how hurtful those words were. Then there are other times when I don't feel strong and thus feel stripped of all power and dignity. In those moments, MOST IRONICALLY, I struggle not to take power away from someone else, or make someone else feel small, especially my children. Isn't that sad? It's beyond sad. I feel humiliated and small, so my first reaction is to make someone (who is already small) feel smaller? What is wrong with us? I see it happening all the time. It's like a handful of mud that we don't want to hold, so we keep passing it on, yet are still dirty from the exchange. I'm pretty sure that most of us have mud on our hands.


Bullying is wrong. Making someone feel small is wrong. But then turning around and doing it to someone else, might be worse, especially when that someone else is a child, or doing it to another child on behalf of a child.GAH! .

How do we stop the cycle? How do I teach my children that not only is bullying wrong, but so is retaliation? Turning the other cheek is not taught the way it used to be. I think children are being taught the exact opposite! Children are not learning to stand up for themselves in kind and positive ways or how solve these issues on their own. Parents are jumping in to react and retaliate for them, even before all sides of a story are heard! Why?

Has bringing attention to bullying made this a problem? I really don't see any benefits from the anti-bullying campaigns other than making more children feel like victims. I really think the problem lies in retaliation. Behind every alleged "bully" is someone who felt powerless. They are reacting to that feeling by taking someone else's power away, be it real or imagined.

Now, of course, there will be some exceptions, but I really believe most bullying happens because someone is trying to gain control and pride back after having lost it for some reason or another. I really believe most kids don't intend to be mean. Most children are just candid and curious. Many times we misconstrue a person's intent and feel insulted when they don't say something the way we wold have liked them too. As they age, children can be taught to be more careful with one another's feelings. But this instant labeling of someone as a bully is just as harmful, if not more so, as anything they could have said or done.

Now don't get me wrong. Bullying is real and does happen. Some kids (and adults) ARE cruel and relentless and mean and seemingly heartless. What I'm upset about is calling everyone who allegedly does a mean thing a bully and assuming the worst before we even know the whole story. Or still assuming the worst and hoping the worst for the "bully" even when we know the whole story.

Recently I saw a mother be presented with award for speaking out for and in behalf of her young daughter who was molested by a young teenage family member. She called him "the perpetrator" and "he got what he deserved" and "punished for his crime" and you could hear the anger and bitterness dripping from her voice as she talked about her own family member. While I don't want to discount the pain she and her family went through, I couldn't help but think of the teenager and his parents and his family. The words she used and the vengeance with which she pursued him and his family was almost mean and relentless. He was still a child too when all this happened. A child whose life will be forever marred by a terrible mistake. I'm sure the pain of the mistake alone will be enough to haunt him the rest of his life. Why must this mother heap all the anger and powerlessness onto this boy?

Maybe I'm opening a can of worms here. The Lord is probably going to teach me more about this. Life has a way of throwing you into the middle of these situations to teach you empathy and show you what it is like first hand. I don't want to know that kind of anger ever again. The kind that makes me want to hurt someone else. Anger has a way of making all love and logic disappear. I need to figure out a way to teach myself and my children how to deal with that feeling of powerlessness so that they don't hurt others or themselves.

Please, Lord, let these experiences I've listed here be enough to teach me what I have to know so that my children won't have to suffer because of me until I learn it.

This is just a rant. I really don't believe more than two people will really read this. I just needed to get it out of my head. I am still forming ideas and opinions and methods for solving this. I just can't have it banging around in my head anymore. By hashing it out here, I can keep it from boiling over in my head and thus out my mouth at inappropriate times and places. Or perhaps this is not the appropriate place.I just need to send it out into the universe and see what comes back, I guess. 

1 comment:

Paparazzi Boutique said...

Kristina, what a beautifully, thought-out post. Thank you for being willing to share your experiences. Gives me a lot to think about - my own actions. ♥ you tons!