Some people believe fervently, passionately and whole-heartedly that if you love bullies, if you give them what they want, if you’re kind enough, then you’ll melt their hearts, they’ll come to their senses and they’ll stop bullying.  Sometimes, rarely, that does work.

But the wisdom of both history and the world’s great literature tells you that you’ll usually get hurt if you put your head in a dragon’s mouth.  By definition, if bullies stop harassing or abusing you because you appease them or if their hearts melt because you love them enough, they’re not real bullies.

And I just read another fabulous example.

The “Shahnameh – The Persian Book of Kings,” by Abolqasem Ferdowsi, written between 980 and 1010 AD, is part of the universal and ancient wisdom tradition that contains a more accurate view of human nature, character and interactions than is found in the wishful thinking of most modern parenting, self-help and psychotherapy literature.

Here’s the story.  Good King Feraydun is old and divides his kingdom between his three sons.  He gives the oldest the eastern part, the middle son the western part and to the youngest, the best and most able, he gives the central part, including Persia.  Soon, the older two become jealous and angry.  They band together and raise a great army to defeat the youngest son and strip him of his kingdom.  Ah, we’ve heard that theme before.  Remember Charlemagne and also “King Lear,” to name just two.

The worthy and noble youngest son, Iraj, says that his brothers and peace are more important to him than his kingdom and the bloodshed that a war will cause.  He says that he will travel to them unarmed and will give them his kingdom.  “I’ll speak to them in kindness; this will be better than angry words and enmity.”

Feraydun replies, “My wise son, your brothers look for war, while you look for reconciliation.  I am reminded of the saying that one should not be surprised that the moon radiates moonlight: your answer is noble and your heart is filled with love.  But what will happen to a man who knowingly places his head in the dragon’s maw?  Surely poison will destroy him, since this is the dragon’s nature?”

You can imagine the rest of the story.  Iraj is welcomed with open arms and sweet words by his brothers.  He is wined and dined.  Later that night, his brothers “washed all shame from their eyes,” sneaked into his tent, split him from head to foot with daggers and cut off his head.

There it is again: The wisdom of the ages.  Beware of real-world danger.  Take adequate precautions.  Appeasement won’t stop real-world bullies.

People who cling to the Secret, to formulas for affirmations and to laws of the universe that tell them that the love and kindness they put out will always be returned with love and kindness are indulging in childish, magical thinking.  Not everyone you befriend will return the compliment.  In fact, some people will take your open hand as an invitation to feast on whatever you have.  Real dragons will act like dragons naturally do.

There are many other examples in the world’s literature – think of all the saints (of every faith) who were martyred, sometimes by dissidents even within their faith.  If you insist on peaceful means as the only means you will try, if you insist on putting your head in the dragon’s maw, then be prepared to be poisoned 99 times out of a hundred.

On the other hard, if you want to keep your children safe when they’re away from home, if you want to keep them safe from cyber bullying, then get help so you can prepare them to face real-world bullies with skill and effective strategy.  You may want formulas and rules, but you’ll learn more from case studies and examples that you can adjust to your specific situation.  Their self-esteem and self-confidence depend on your helping them be successful.

Ben Leichtling, Ph.D. is author of the books and CDs “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids” and “Eliminate the High cost of Low Attitudes.” He is available for coaching, consulting and speaking.  To find practical, real-world tactics to stop bullies and bullying at home, school, work and in relationships, see his web site (http://www.BulliesBeGone.com) and blog (http://www.BulliesBeGoneBlog.com).

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