On compassion towards bullies

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” -Albert Schweitzer

I have been thinking a lot about compassion this week. The concept of Love over fear and Love over anger is a common theme in my life, but I feel like a new spotlight has shone on the idea of loving-kindness since I wrote about it two days ago. I’ve been thinking about grace and benevolence and about giving people the benefit of the doubt.

Moreover, it has been a challenge. Some people, myself included, believe that the Universe sends us challenges to help us learn and grow and evolve. I have had a couple of challenges to my loving-kindness perspective in the last few days.

I am an empath. I feel people’s feelings. I am naturally a helper and a nurturer. I nearly always give people the benefit of the doubt because I believe that most people are good. I refuse to let a few bad apples change my mind about that. To be human is to be screwed over on occasion but that doesn’t mean that the right thing to do is to stop seeing the good in people. I feel sad for those cynics.

“A male lion roaring while lying on grass” by Lemuel Butler on Unsplash

[Note: I updated this post the week after I published it, because after some time I was able to provide more specifics.]

My partner and I have been dealing with a few bullies this week who have been bullying independent of one another, though evidence points to them being in on it together. He owns restaurant. He had three delivery customers complain with a very similar story. Two or three were abusive over the phone.
[Updated details: It was confirmed that they all provided the same delivery address. The person I communicated with was over Instagram and she insisted that her “boyfriend” had called and was very polite, while some research revealed that the couple who live in the house are married.]

He and I took a very different approach. It has felt a little bit like a good cop/bad cop scenario.

My response (paraphrased): Give everyone the benefit of the doubt! Show compassion! People want to be heard and validated!

His response (paraphrased): I’m right, they are bullies.

Although this story may not be one of my strongest because of it, I do not want to reveal details right now because I want to preserve anonymity and I don’t want to lead you to these complaints. However, I will say this:

  • It is difficult to be kind to a bully/troll
  • It is difficult to be pleasant to a person who is verbally abusing people you care about
  • It is difficult to show compassion to a liar

These are tests.

At one point I demonstrated compassion toward the person I later discovered was a typical internet Troll. I expressed kindness. I apologized. I showed that I’d heard the bully. I validated the bully. Bully indicated that the apology was accepted. I thought the issue was resolved. Compassion FTW!! Except the vitriol and bullying continued.

“The light in you is all I see.” -Gabrielle Bernstein

A Social Media world

I’ve been communicating online for longer than I’ve been blogging and building websites. I’ve been on “social media” since before it was called that. I was a CompuServe IRC user, and a newsgroup user. I know that internet Trolls have existed since forever. For a few years, it seemed that many people with blogs had a sense of entitlement because their voice was public. I had a friend who joked that she wanted to start a blog called, “Will Blog For Free Stuff.” PR companies and businesses often offered me freebies. Sometimes I accepted, sometimes I declined. Either way, I always expressed gratitude to the person who offered it to me. I was a brand ambassador a few times. I appreciated every free meal, every free event, the hotel stay in wine country, and everything else. I never took any of it for granted.

Now it is people with high social media follower counts, some of which are real, organic followers, some of which are bought. Our research lead us to the conclusion that the Internet Troll who has been bullying us likely bought an estimated 60% (rounding down) of their followers. This estimation is based on analysis with a few different tools. First, they (or their partner) uttered the threat of their 50,000 followers by phone, then they executed with lies and other bs. Oh, and there is absolutely no indication of their identity on their account. Internet troll.

I posted the following on Facebook a couple of days ago:

I don’t care how much a person has, I care what kind of person they are. No amount of money, stuff, friends or social media followers can make a person more respectable if they act like a dick. I don’t care how expensive or big a person’s toys, gadget, house, etc. are either. If a person lives in a shithole of a dwelling, that’s fine as long as they’re comfortable (and if they’re not, I’d worry about them). One’s sense of status and their need for it does not interest me. It instead indicates their fears and insecurities and need to feel important and validated by numbers.

In other words, I have no more or less respect for a person regardless of what they have. Being a good person is what makes me respect someone. Showing compassion for others, showing kindness to the world, humility, and not acting self-entitled, are traits that make me respect a person.

I think that love and compassion always win, but some people are so in their egos, the stories in their minds and their mob mentality that they’re not willing to let go and go back to a state of peace.

Flaunting followers is no different than flaunting cash or belongings. It doesn’t automatically make you a good person.

The sense of entitlement is infuriating. I want to have compassion for what’s causing it, such as insecurity, feeling inferior, a spoiled upbringing by parents who gave their screaming child whatever the child wanted to pacify that child, regardless of whether it was out of love or neglect. In the case of parents with a screaming child, I have empathy for the parents. I like to think I don’t judge. I also know that children need boundaries and need to hear “no”. But really, I’m speculating here. I have no idea where a sense of entitlement comes from, and I know that the root cause varies from person-to-person.

I have compassion for people’s insecurities but must one must love themselves. One must have self-respect. You’ve got to show compassion for others and understand that acts of hostility have consequences. Respecting people is a way to get respect. Bullies can’t be given positive reinforcement. Tantrums can’t be rewarded. You need to support people, not tear them down because you think you they owe you something. No one owes you a thing.

“See the light in others and treat them as if that is all you see.” -Dr. Wayne Dyer

If someone asks for a refund but is offered something free to be redeemed at any in the future instead, the correct response is gratitude. The wrong way to respond is to complain that you were offered something free or equal or higher value instead of your money back.

How do you love a troll or a bully?

So how do a feel after being challenged to show loving-kindness towards bullies? Can you show kindness towards an Internet Troll or a bully?

That’s what the internet‘s for; slandering people anonymously -Banky Edwards (played by Jason Lee, written by Kevin Smith), Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back

We definitely should not feed the trolls. I can’t decide whether trolls are worth compassion. I want to think that everyone is worth compassion.

Anonymous trolls are the worst kind of online bully, for their lack of credibility is clear to some people but not others and trolling seems to propagate more trolling. People like to be a part of something. People like to join causes and crusades. A lot of people like to hide behind the anonymity of the internet. We don’t get aggressive complaints and demands via Facebook. We get those where anonymity is possible.

I feel we need to approach bullies and with kindness and cynicism. We cannot be taken advantage of. We can’t be gaslit by bullies or trolls. We cannot be torn down. We cannot “give the benefit of the doubt” at the expense of ourselves. We cannot allow ourselves to be mistreated. We must be aware. We must keep our wits about us. We need a healthy amount of cynicism. Some people are absolutely horrible, miserable people that aren’t worth our energy.

We need loving-kindness. Even the shitty people deserve loving-kindness. We can’t ignore that they are despicable, but we don’t have to. As I said in my story earlier this week, when people do vile things, I try to find even a grain of compassion within me. Sometimes I have to reach hard for it.

Digital Marketing Manager | Freelance Writer | ADHD Coach for adults | Available for hire. http://andreawrites.ca.