By Stephen Parks
Virtually every school teaches kids not to hit or fight back in the face of a threat. Bullying is the most popular example of this kind of situation. Standing up for yourself or your friends is openly discouraged. If you tell the “bully” to leave you alone, they are apparently supposed to comply. If not, informing the school staff provides them with the opportunity to proceed with doing nothing about the problem. Some even openly deny the existence of a problem in their school.
Parents who teach their kids to be assertive and fight back are not welcomed in a positive way. I know this from first-hand experience. Teaching people to stand up for themselves does not necessarily lead to violence. Violence, however, is at times the only option. Being assertive in itself is non-violent and effective. Not only is assertiveness the center of effective communication, the Mayo Clinic states that it is effective in “[controlling] stress and anger and improve[s] coping skills”.
Victims of bullying are “two to nine times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims”; according to a study done by Yale University. This study, conducted five years ago, still we have learned nothing. Why? Because the current process of socialization is extremely flawed. To save the “face” of a company or school, we apparently must sacrifice our children, our values and our instinct of self-preservation.
Individuals do not decide whether they become victims or not, but they do decide how they respond to it. The individual can take measures to ensure that they are not an easy target. Furthermore, if a person becomes a victim, they can and should choose to fight back.
Bullies, criminals or any other type of perpetrator will typically choose the path of least resistance. Their goal is to take advantage of a person, not get into a physical altercation. A bully that meets resistance will likely move to a different target as their goal is looking tough through intimidation, not fighting. Even if a fight ensues, doing damage will prevent future harassment and decrease your chances of becoming a victim in the future. A hard target is less likely to become a victim.
Unfortunately, this is not the mantra of society. Presently, it is along the lines of, “Be passive and do not do anything to instigate or offend the perpetrator. However, if you choose violence, you will face legal charges and we will publicly humiliate you”. This leaves many individuals with only two options: get taken advantage of repeatedly, or committing suicide.
How many people end up taking their own lives because they are conditioned to repress their emotions and instincts? They are not only afraid to defend themselves; they think that it is wrong. How many people stand around while a person is beaten or picked on? Standing by, filming for instant upload while a person is dehumanized. This type of behavior is repulsive.
We need to get back to fighting back. Not be the wolf, but the sheepdog. The one that deters and overcomes the wolf when necessary. The one that keeps the wolf from the sheep and if it happens to get to the sheep, game on! If a person gets in your face, winning or losing is not the concern. Being assertive and standing up for yourself, your friends, your families and innocent strangers is what changes the tide. This behavior deters violent crime.
There will always be a victim, but it will not be me, or anyone else around me. Everyone seems to enjoy the cliché story of the small person rising up against all enemies and all odds, but does little to support that in reality. Of course preventing violent crime by stopping it before it happens is appealing. Until that becomes a reality, which is highly unlikely, people need to know that it is ok to protect themselves. They need to be encouraged to maintain the safety and security of themselves and those around them.
The sheepdog in everyone needs to be encouraged. Yes, there is a sheepdog in everyone. Each person must make the decision to nurture his or her instinct. Everyone wants to help, but only those that have made the decision to act will turn that instinct into action. Sheepdogs are protectors and defenders. Violence is not its first option but it is definitely an option.
Our kids are our future. Our future being systematically instructed to avoid confrontation, choose passive words to avoid offending and not taking a stance. “Being assertive means that you express yourself effectively and stand up for your point of view, while also respecting the rights and beliefs of others” (Mayo Clinic). It does not require not offending others as the act of taking offense is a personal decision. You cannot possibly be responsible for how another person responds emotionally.
Being passive provides the impression that your thoughts, feelings and ideas are not important. Not only will the passive person not believe in their own abilities, cognitions and strengths, others will take notice and take advantage. This is dangerous! Not only is this behavior unproductive and inefficient, it can provide an easy and appealing target.
Stand up for yourself and others. Teach your kids to be confident and assertive. Teach them to believe in their ability to keep themselves safe. Most importantly, teach them that their safety is important and worth fighting for. Breed the sheepdog, encourage the sheepdog and be the sheepdog. It is the only way to keep the wolves from destroying our future.
Opinions expressed on The Rhino Den are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of Rhino Den or Ranger Up. Peanut butter cream pies do not receive the praise that they should.