Can a Bully Reform?

Picture this:

You’re in the supermarket deliberating if the prices for eggplant are worth it or not, when a stranger approaches you. You’re naturally wary and your mind races through all the possible outcomes of this encounter. The stranger calls you by name; by now, you try to place a name on this other person but your mind comes to a blank.

They also apologize, even daring to hug you at the end.  In the midst of all this, all you want to do is push this person off and run for your life. But you don’t. You politely wait until the hug is over and quite blatantly ask for their name. The person is hesitant but after a few moment’s pause, complies. He says his name is Ian and suddenly the memories come flooding back to your mind.

Ian was the name of the semi-popular boy in high school that bullied you for four years straight. He mocked you everyday for dressing poor and called you every name in the book. He made fun of your appearance because you wore braces at one point. The calmness you had faded; anger sparked and all you wanted to do was bop Ian with the eggplant. You didn’t buy his nice act for one minute because if it was one thing you knew, it was that bullies didn’t change for the better.

 

Would that have been you? Would you have accepted Ian’s changed behavior or would you have held onto the past, refusing to acknowledge his good work?

Many of us encounter bullies, be that at our school, the workplace or even our own homes. Bullies aren’t something everyone wants to talk about, especially when it comes to them changing.

Before we get into that, let’s define a bully: a bully is a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.

Teasing someone about their appearance is bullying. Forcing someone to do your homework is bullying. Making fun of someone online is bullying.

It’s often hard for us to accept that change is possible with everyone, even our worst enemy. We don’t think they’re capable under all that cold exterior, when in reality it happens more than we think it does. Society tends to say change isn’t possible, the church says it is. Which is more reliable?

My pastor has often said that hurt people hurt people.

He’s right — when we’re hurting, we tend to want to lash out at those who are happy or have it better than us. It’s a common variable. It’s especially prominent when it comes to revenging those who have hurt us. We want them to feel the pain, we want them to suffer. Scoffing at Ian’s apology or giving him the cold shoulder and watching his face drop with disappointment would be satisfying to that part of us that still feels hurt but most definitely not the best way to handle such a situation.

Does this change your perspective a little? Take that leap if you encounter one, give them a smile and most of all, realize that they’re trying.

 

Erica is Potterhead who enjoys writing, doing tricks on her skateboard and is a huge lover of Batman. She’s about to start her second year of college in hopes of becoming a surgeon in the future.

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Parenting: Featuring my Upbringing

“Don’t you guys fight at all?” a young friend asked me as she watched my siblings interact at a youth retreat.

I paused for a moment to think.

“Come to think about it, no,” I replied.

Every time I give that answer, people look at me like I just told them I have superhuman powers.
Culture has gotten to the point where everyone believes that it’s normal for families to be at odds with each other constantly. I wasn’t raised like that.

It goes back to parenting. I owe my perspective and confidence to my parents, who modeled what relationship was supposed to be. Here are some ways they raised us that differ from “normal” parenting.

1. I never heard my parents raise their voices out of anger or frustration.
I don’t understand why anyone thinks they are going to prove a point by yelling. Here’s the thing: humans are selfish. They tend to think of each situation from their own perspective. This perspective will only be strengthened if others throw opposing opinions loudly in their faces.

Children are individuals. I think parents forget this often. They try to mold their kids into a certain behavior pattern that hopefully holds up as they grow into adulthood.And when the child shows his individuality by contesting a parent’s wish, mom or dad freaks out, trying to frantically put the nice behavior pattern back together. Yelling tends to be preferred approach.

Parents are to be guides, not slave masters. They have in their hands the life of an individual. Using forceful tone to prove a point only hinders.
(There was one exception to the yelling in my life. If there was an emergency, then was the time my parents used the powers of their voices. This way, we learned to act quickly and without question in the face of danger. We knew instinctively that there was a reason for the tone our parents took on. Even then, it was only one quick word, then they would reduce to normal levels to talk us through emergency procedure.)

2. My parents always heard my opinion.
This goes back to the individuality concept. Many times kids don’t want to do what their parents ask because they don’t understand the reasoning behind the request. My parents didn’t just tell us to do things because they said so. Instead, we talked about the situation that caused them to come to their decision.

When dad and mom were wrong, they admitted it. If my ideas were worth putting into action, they reconsidered their position. If my opinion was faulty, I was never the worse for speaking my mind and hearing the whole process of reasoning.

The result? I trusted my parents enough to do things just because they said so. I knew that they had solid reasoning behind their decisions, and I based my actions off that knowledge.
You can’t build a relationship by shutting down the voice of your child. Instead, focus on setting precedent by hearing his or her ideas and expressing your position genuinely.

3. Honesty was always the first priority.
We knew that we had an alibi if we would only tell the truth. My parents always heard us out. We didn’t get punished for making mistakes, but we weren’t spared if we lied about our actions.

Mistakes are a part of life. My parents taught me to realize that facing those mistakes head-on is the best key to personal growth.

Honesty also helped my relationships grow stronger. If we had quarrels as children, we knew that if we were honest, we would be given the chance to fix our wrongs and move on. This birthed healthy relationship mindsets in our hearts.

Now, we are simply honest with each other about our thoughts, feelings, and ideas. This keeps our relationships open and solves any problems that might come up. We have hard conversations, but we leave with stronger connections than we came with.

Did my parents do everything right? Absolutely not. But I appreciate the mindsets they built in me and I apply many of the same principles they taught me to my interactions with children today.
And if and when I have kids, I will be sure to use these three tools daily.

Lolita Allgyer is a passionate self-educator that loves anything that challenges her thinking. She is currently a Marketing Associate for Praxis, an apprenticeship program that seeks to help young people propel their careers. She also manages a podcast called Educationeering, where she interviews critical thinkers and trailblazers about their views on education. She writes every day on her blog or other mediums like Quora. You can find her work at lolitaallgyer.com.

Lessons on Dating: Positive Christian Influence

I have grown up going to church in a Christian home with Christian parents. I am currently unsure of my beliefs in God, but I have learned some important lessons about dating and romantic relationships from various Christians in my life.

  1. Unconditional love. No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. The Christians in my life, including my parents, have modeled unconditional love and taught me that this is an important aspect of a successful romantic relationship. Loving someone despite their mistakes, imperfections, and habits that can be annoying is tough but incredibly important. Love cannot be based entirely on emotions, because it will not last. This takes me to my next point, which is interrelated.
  2. Forgiveness. People hurt each other unintentionally or intentionally while driven by anger. Being forgiving and asking for forgiveness in these situations strengthens the relationship. It is not forgetting the offense or saying that it does not or did not matter or have effects, but rather it is moving on from that, not letting it have continuing effects and interfere with the relationship. It is important to not have an attitude of self-righteousness or of being better than others, but rather to care about the other person’s feelings.
  3. Faithfulness/Commitment. At a point of exclusivity, using the words boyfriend and girlfriend, or being a couple, not becoming romantically, emotionally, or physically involved with anyone else. I know it has been pointed out before, but I’ll say it here: Cheating not only breaks the trust of the other person, but it also causes emotional damage in the person being cheated on. The point of an exclusive relationship is to only be with that person and the relationship will last longer if there is faithfulness from both sides. This along with unconditional love and forgiveness will lead to a better, stronger relationship.

These are three lessons I learned about dating and romantic relationships from the Christians in my life that are applicable regardless of religiosity.

When Friendships Fracture

friendship-breakup

Friendships are deep and meaningful relationships and when they come to an end, it is oftentimes hurtful to one or both parties. Sometimes, the relationship fades but other times it ends when it is harmful or hurtful for one or both of the individuals. It takes a lot of strength and deliberation to realize that a friendship has become toxic and is no longer a healthy relationship to be in. I was in one of those friendships. Towards the end of the friendship, I felt so much hurt and I was and still am haunted by certain aspects of it.

 

We were childhood friends and we had spent countless hours together going to different field trips and attending the same church youth group etc. There were even times that for one reason or another, we’d see each other every single day of the week. As we got older, the closeness started to fade but the friendliness remained, at least for a time. Slowly, we started to drift apart. He started spending time with a different group of friends, and became loud, brash and borderline disrespectful. He didn’t take his studies in our classes seriously, always talking loudly and joking around. I began to feel disconnected from him and we no longer spent time together. The last straw was when he and his friends started teasing/bullying my brother. It is NOT teasing when only one party is having fun. The harassment was horrible and my brother and I dreaded having to go to class with them. That was when I decided that I had had enough and stopped trying to be friends. It’s not a friendship if you’re doing all the work in the relationship. I thought that our friendship meant something to both of us. I was wrong. He changed.

 

It hurts to realize that someone has destroyed your orbit and hurt you while theirs is still spinning just fine without you in it. Sometimes it is unintentional, sometimes it is not. When they don’t answer your texts ever or seek out your company, then they make it pretty clear who and where their priorities are. Once I realized all of this, I stopped trying to be friends; it just wasn’t worth it anymore. He truly hurt me. Not only that, he betrayed the trust I had put in him and our friendship. He knew what was important to me yet he still acted the way he did. I don’t trust easily, I never have and I put my trust in him only to have it broken. To treat me badly was one thing but to hurt my family was an entirely different matter. All these years later I still don’t trust him but the hurt is starting to go away. Every year I wish him happy birthday in honor of what we used to have. We don’t see each other and we don’t speak to each other except for when I send him birthday greetings.

 

I put up many walls after this and I was even more reluctant to trust others. I didn’t want to open myself up only to be hurt again. This went on for years until I found a group of people who I could be myself around and cared about me for who I was. I still get nervous and second guess myself in my friendships sometimes and I still wonder if people are just being nice or genuinely being my friend. Every little gesture that anyone does for me always means so much. I’m starting to become a little less guarded and have learnt to start to open up to people again. I now have an incredible support system to confide in and share all the good and bad things that happen in my life. Most importantly, I learnt to not sell myself short in relationships of any kind. Do not mistake my kindness for weakness, friendship is a two way street and if you can’t respect that than we can’t be friends.

Rarity of Opposite Gender Friendships

In today’s society, friendships between opposite genders are increasingly rare. It is also something that isn’t normally discussed. I believe that part of the reason these friendships are uncommon is that they are treated as something unique and unattainable when they shouldn’t be. Lack of discussion on the topic only furthers the idea that these friendships are anomalies. In order to bring awareness to the concept and start a discussion, I asked a guy friend of mine to collaborate with me and discuss some different ideas and misconceptions surrounding opposite gender friendships. My comments are in green and his are in blue.

  •  In today’s world, it seems like people think you can’t be friends with someone of a different gender. Why do you think that is the case?

I think it has a lot to do with the cultural mindset. Unfortunately, media such as film and television have corrupted what people perceive to be healthy and natural relationships. Not just romantic relationships, friendships as well. They put these friendships on a pedestal as a rarity and something unusual when it shouldn’t be. There’s been such an emphasis that you can’t be “just” friends – for instance, if someone of the opposite gender is trying to be friends, the only reason that they are doing that is because they want something more from you. While that can be the case sometimes, I think that’s untrue most of the time.

I think another reason why is because of lack of communication. Or rather, lack of communication about intentions regarding the relationship. I think that generally speaking, when people attempt to have opposite gender friendships, they don’t communicate their intentions and people make assumptions and get confused about where their relationship stands.

Definitely agree with the fact that the culture has through film and social norms made the boyfriend/girlfriend relationship not only usual but the expectation. More often than not I have found that when you help or even talk to a girl you are immediately by others and sometimes the girl herself thought to be “interested.” When in reality you can have a conversation, assist, and even hug (shocking I know) without having to be interested in a relationship other than one of friendship.

  • Do you think that stigma/cultural mindset is involved? For instance, it is said that you can’t be friends unless you are boyfriend/girlfriend, etc, etc.

Definitely! I think there is a great deal of stigma involved in the lack of friendships between girls and guys. I think that the misconceptions surrounding the topic and the lack of conversation about it definitely contribute to it.  

In fact most people have become so saturated in the mindset of boyfriend/girlfriend. We as a society have begun to encourage our young children as young as 2nd-3rd grade.

Or even younger!

  • Can you share one instance where having a friend of the opposite gender has been helpful?

Honestly, it’s hard for me to think of just one! Over the years, there have been many instances where I found that having perspective from the opposite gender has been immensely helpful. I think that being able to talk someone who you trust and is able to provide solid advice from a mostly logical standpoint is very helpful; I have gotten advice on topics ranging from how to deal with certain situations to dealing with feelings etc. As I have gotten closer to some of my guy friends, I have found that I have such a strong support system and that has been such a blessing. I really love being able to go them for advice and support knowing that they have my back and vice versa. Also, I think that having opposite gender friendships teach you what qualities to expect/look for in a life partner and what to expect in terms of how you should be treated in a relationship.

In addition to just more people to talk to, I have also found that they are much more likely to give you good honest feedback.  It gives you an ability to get a second opinion on things and get a unique perspective.

  • Do you think that having these relationships makes you a better/more well-rounded person?

Yes, I feel like having guy friends has made me an overall better person. I am normally a very focused, intense individual and the guys remind me that it’s okay to have fun sometimes and to relax a little. They have helped me to learn to open myself up a little and trust people again. Additionally, having guy friends has helped me broaden my worldview.

I think that you will find it hard as you go through life to work in an environment in which you don’t have any female friends. So yes it most definitely makes you a better person, it is also necessary for you to operate in life.

  • How do you foster these types of relationships?

Be honest about what you expect out of the relationship. Look for people you genuinely connect with; don’t focus so much on gender. Only when one does not make opposite gender friendships a big deal will these kinds of friendships normalize. Sometimes, the people you don’t think you have anything in common with will become some of your closest friends.

You should be up front about how you want the relationship to go. I find that if you treat them as sisters and show Φιλαδελφία Greek for brotherly love which is what Christ teaches that we should show to all people.