By Justin Gates
My wife took 3 of my daughters shopping for school this past week. This is something that she likes to do with them, and they would rather go with her because with me, it is more like getting issued uniforms at basic training (LOL). Anyways, when they came home, one of my daughters was upset that it was hard to find clothes that fit her the way that she wants. She was upset and crying. I told my wife that I was going to talk to her and my wife advised that I should leave her alone and let her work it out. So I did.
Later that night, I came home from work, and I noticed that the grass had not been cut even though my daughter had given her word that it was going to be cut (2 days in a row). I came inside and asked out loud “Is the lawnmower broken”? My wife told me that my daughter was down stairs with her older sister and was still crying and upset. I called for her to come upstairs.
As we talked, I learned that she was upset over her size (she is built like her Daddy) and that a few kids at school had said something to her that had made it worse (more like initiated her dislike of herself). As it goes for most fathers whose children are the focus of harsh words and inappropriate comments, the Fire and Lava started erupting and boiling up from the pit of my belly ready to smite the fools who dared utter such words! But, it is not a time for smite, it is a time for calm and understanding.
I asked her why she cared about what others said to her. “Don’t you like who you are” I asked. She responded with “I do, I did”. “What changed” I asked. “They said that I looked like I was wearing Maternity clothes” she said. “Are you wearing maternity clothes?” “No” she said. She told me that it was hard to deal with, when people were asking her questions like that because it made her feel bad about herself.
I don’t think that I need to tell anyone reading this, that it is wrong to say inappropriate things to others in an attempt to make them feel bad. In fact, we call this bullying and most of us agree that this is wrong (if you don’t think it is wrong, come by and we can have a conversation about it). Bullying has been a thing probably since the beginning of time. In all of our attempts in this “modern” times to curb or stop bullying has been in vain. We always seem to combat bullying by going after those who bully in a passive aggressive way and expect them to just stop. We post signs and posters in school, have slogans and mantras, and air TV commercials, all in an attempt to stop it. Why does it not work effectively? I’m not advocating direct violence, but in my day when people bullied others, sometimes a swift butt whoopin would make a bully think twice about going after someone.
However, I am an advocate of defending yourself is someone is using violence to bully. If someone is bringing violence upon your person, you have the right to defend yourself. But in this case, no violence is being directed at my daughter and I would not suggest that she use violence in return. So, how do we combat this type of bullying? “Why do you let others dictate how you feel” I asked her. I have said this probably a thousand times before and I will keep saying it; You cannot really control most of what happens outside of yourself, but you can control 100% of how you internalize what happens on the inside. It very much is like the “gift” metaphor. If someone gives you a gift and you refuse, who does the gift belong to? If people try and give you words designed to hurt you and you refuse them, then those words belong to the giver.
Physical assaults are, in my mind, much easier to confront, because it leaves bruises and marks. It is more difficult to hide this type of bullying. Psychological bullying is a much different thing. It causes marks and bruises that cannot be seen. It can go “unseen” for a very long time and the damage can, if not dealt with, cause tremendous amounts of long term issues. It is up to the victim to say something and many times they do not say anything until the damage is already done. That is why I pay very close attention to my children in their day to day lives, their social media interactions, phone conversations, etc. I have also instilled in them a willingness to open up to me and their mother when issues start. This is not full proof mind you, but it does go a long way in heading off potential trouble.
My daughter is one, when she sees someone being bullied, will stand up and defend that person. I know this, because I have been called by the school a several occasions when she had gotten in someones face and told them to back down. But curiously enough, she has trouble standing up for herself. I suspect that many of us out there are much like this. I said to her “One of these two things is a lie. On one hand, you will find the courage to stand up for whats right and defend another person. On the other hand, you will let someone get you down on yourself because of what they say to you. One of these is a truth and the other is a lie. Which is it?” I continued, “When you see someone being picked on, you find that fire in the pit of your belly and stand up for them, but when someone says something like that to you, you don’t light that fire and just accept what they say. I believe that the moments when you stand up for others is the truth, and the moments that you allow others to dictate your feelings and emotions is the lie”. My Brother from another Mother David Edge once said to me; “The greatest lie ever told, is the one we tell ourselves.” How true this is, and how powerful of an effect is has on us at our very core.
“You get what you allow.” This is something else that I have said countless times again and again. Story time! Once upon a time there were two farmers whose fields were separated only by a fence. The one farmer plants delicious melons of all kinds, the other farmer grows nasty prickly cacti. The cactus farmer is jealous of the melon farmer because he gets all of the attention and everyone wants to buy melons and not cacti. So the cactus farmer starts throwing cacti seeds over the fence. The melon farmer sees this and decides to do nothing about it, just accepting this passive aggressive attempt of retribution. The cactus farmer sees this and takes note that the melon farmer knows he is doing this and is doing nothing about it, encouraging him to keep throwing the seeds over the fence. Over time, the melon farmers crop starts to change and eventually all he is able to grow is cacti. The melon farmer allowing this action to go unchecked now joins in the cactus farmers misery because no one wants to come and buy cacti. He allowed himself to be dragged into a condition of despair because he did nothing to stop the cactus farmer from polluting his crop. He got exactly what he allowed.
The Mind works very much in this way. It is my view, that the Mind is the bridge between the other two, the Body and Spirit (Soul). It operates much like a field or a garden. If positive thoughts are planted and cultivated, then your outlook will be positive, you will have confidence and a healthy self-esteem. If you plant negative and self defeating thoughts, then your outlook and self-esteem will be negative. Likewise, if you allow others to plant negative seeds in your mind, then the outcome is the same as if you put them there yourself. You join them in their misery just like the melon farmer and it will be because you allowed it to happen.
My daughter agreed with me in that standing up for others is the truth and that allowing others to control how she feels is the lie. “It is so hard to stand up for myself” she said. “I know it is. It is something that even I struggle with sometimes. Sometimes I forget the power I hold over myself and my feelings and emotions. But it is a struggle that is worth the time and effort. The more you practice these principles, the easier they become. Doing what is right is never easy.” I replied.
I left her with this before sending her to bed as it was late; “When we allow other people to dictate how we feel, and seek to change for them, it creates a precedence in their minds and ours. If you decide to change for someone, understand that it will not be the end of their need to control you. They will find something else, and then something else, and on and on. It will be endless. Seek to make the changes that YOU want. These will be harmonious to you and your whole self and not at the expense of your self-confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem. Your mother and I do not seek to ever change you, only guide you in positive directions. We love you no matter what you look like, how much you weigh, how you dress, what you like, and so on.” I gave her a hug and kiss and sent her to bed.
The point I was making is this; you have the power to allow and reject influences from others. Only you have the power to influence your feelings and emotions. Only you can give that power away to someone else. Don’t trust others to control how you feel, trust yourself with this. If you allow others to dictate your feelings and emotions, you only have yourself to blame. Not a popular thing to say, I know. I just don’t care if it is popular or not.
Awaken the Knight Within!