Do we have to decide that a bully is bad, evil and unredeemable in order to stop them or get them out of our lives?  Do we have to be judgmental in order to act – to kick someone out of school, to divorce someone, to sever a relationship, to put someone in prison?

Many people think they’d have to be much too judgmental and punitive in order to act.  After all, we don’t know the heart of someone since we can’t really walk in their shoes, and we don’t know who can be transformed or redeemed.

But is that way of looking at bullies true or useful?  Do we have to wait until we’re sure that a bully is evil and unredeemable before we can act?  Is it wrong to be so judgmental about a person’s character?  Can we say that our standards are so much better when someone else has such different ones?

I think that those are the wrong questions.  They’re not questions that will help us; instead they get us into unanswerable philosophic discussions.

I think more useful questions are: “What actions from whom are we willing to have in our environment?  What are we willing to do to remove people who act in ways that are painful, demeaning, denigrating, abusive and bullying?”

By using these criteria about actions, we’re not making any judgment about the person’s character or identity – are they good or bad, are they evil?  We’re not hallucinating about the possibility of their rehabilitation and redemption in the future.  We’re simply deciding what behavior we’ll accept in our personal environment.

Doesn’t that change things?  What happens to the hesitation, stress and anxiety in trying to figure out what’s the “Right” thing to do?  What happens to the fear and worry about misjudging someone?

It’s not a matter of being judgmental; it’s simply a matter of choosing how to live in our personal space.  Once we choose our personal standards, we can pay attention to other people’s actions; not their reasons, excuses or justifications; not their character, true identity or the state of their soul; not some grandiose judgment about whose culture is superior.

If or when bullies change their behavior, we can decide how many times we have to see them act decently or over how long a span before we give them more chances to get close.  Or maybe, we’ll never let them get close again.

We’re not required to share time and space with anyone now, no matter what our previous relationship was or how much they want to see us now.  Their desire to date us doesn’t alter our freedom to say, “Not interested.  Go be happy somewhere else.”

We don’t have to have good, logical reasons.  We don’t have to figure out what the “Right” action is.  We don’t have to justify our decisions.  We can just be with the people we feel like because we want to.

It’s not a judgment about them; it’s about how compatible we feel or the dangers and risks we want to take or just because “We wanna or we don’t wanna.”  And we get total control over these choices because it’s about us; not them.  There are no outside rules or social codes that force us to do what we’re not comfortable with.

So keep it simple.  No great philosophical questions; no questions about character, identity or future possibilities, no questions about good or evil, no questions about future possibilities of redemption; only questions about the behavior we want in our personal environment or the behavior we won’t tolerate.

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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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