Bullies are part of life right now. They crop up in many situations from school to work to the guy on the freeway who thinks he rules the road. Many bullies grow up to be even bigger bullies, and that means we are stuck with dealing with them as adults, too. Pagan and spiritual communities are have their bullies, too, which is really sad because our religions and spirituality are such intimate places in our lives- damage done there can be so traumatic. According to StopBullying.gov, the warning signs that a child is a bully are as follows (with a couple of very child specific behaviors left out as impertinent to this post):
- they get into physical or verbal fights
- have friends who bully others
- are increasingly aggressive
- blame others for their problems
- don't accept responsibility for their actions
- are competitive and worry about their reputation
I've been seeing a lot of these behaviors from some pretty well known pagans in the last few years, and it really bothers me. It bothers me that some people get a pass over and over again for these behaviors and others get pilloried and then shunned the very first time they cross the line. It frightens me a bit that I am seeing people I generally really admire who would, typically, call out these behaviors in strangers, look the other way when it's one of their friends.
I don't have many answers, advice or ideas on this one, other to start holding ourselves and the big names in our circles to higher standards. I would like to remind all of us, myself included, that we are judged by the company we keep, so when we see these behaviors, we have a stake in not being associated with the perpetrators. Lost respect is hard to rebuild, as are our reputations. Be safe. Be smart. Be careful with feelings, both yours and those belonging to others. Feel free to walk away from a fight, especially if you know it's with someone who only wants to tear you down. It will never be worth your time or the negativity you are inviting into your life.