I learned by personal and professional experience that unconditional love doesn’t stop real-world bullies.  But others learned the same lesson over 2,500 years ago.

Of course, we all have those bad days when everything seems to go wrong and we’re so grumpy that we take it out on the dog or anyone we meet.  But with people like us, a yelp of pain, a kind word, a straightforward appeal, an expression of empathy or sympathy will bring us to our senses.  We’ll be genuinely contrite, make amends and not repeat the behavior again.  But, of course, we’re not relentless, real-world bullies.  We just had a bad day.

Relentless, real-world bullies aren’t stopped when we show them love and kindness.

In fact, they take our love and kindness as signs of weakness and an invitation to increase their bullying.  Here are two ancient examples:

  1. In “The Analects,” 14-34, Confucius says: “Requite injury with uprightness.  Requite kindness with kindness.”
  2. The “Mahabharata” says, “If you are gentle, [bullies] will think you are afraid.  They will never be able to understand the motives that prompt you to be gentle.  They will think you are weak and unwilling to resist them.”

In other words: If you turn the other cheek to bullies, expect that bullies will misinterpret your moral high ground for weakness and be encouraged to taunt, harass, abuse and attack you more.  If you’re willing to have your cheek bitten, then turn the other cheek.

But don’t believe me or the ancient wisdom.  What’s your experience?

Suppose you classify into two groups:

  1. Those who responded to your kindness and love with kind and loving behavior.
  2. Those who responded with suspicion, blame and further attacks.

Suppose you label the first group “people who act nice to me when we act nice to each other” and suppose you ignore the reasons, excuses and justifications of people in the second group and simply label them as “bullies” or “predators.”  Would that give you a better idea about how to respond effectively and successfully to their behavior?

And what’s your take on history?  Suppose you did the same classification to famous historical figures.  Suppose you though if, for instance, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, General Custer, Cortez, Pizarro, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, the Inquisition and thousands more would have had their lust for power satisfied, and stopped their brutality and conquest if they were faced with kindness, appeasement, begging, bribery or love?

Oh, I forgot to mention all of the martyrs of every religion, race, color, creed, ethnic group or gender.  And how about those wildebeests crossing that crocodile infested river?  Or a limping zebra being watched by lions and hyenas?

So what can you do?

  1. Don’t be anxious, afraid, discouraged, depressed or suicidal.  Don’t be angry at the way the world is.
  2. Simply requite injury with uprightness.  Be strong, courageous, persevering and resilient.  Stop bullies in their tracks.  Of course, your tactics will vary with the situation.   But your inner qualities and your will and determination will be the same.

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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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