“I follow three rules: Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care.”
This weekend, I was reminded why “doing the right thing” does not always equal doing the easy thing, but keeps your conscious clear. How is this important to the bullying recovery issue? Stay with me through this and we’ll get there.
I was coming out of a parking space when I touched bumpers with a parked car (yeah, maybe I’m not the best driver). I was in a busy parking lot and possibly for a second, I thought about just driving away. But that’s not me, at least the me that grew up. Sure, I’ve made my poor choices in the past, but haven’t we all. I refuse to let them haunt me anymore (as I discussed in my memoir “A Ladder in the Dark”). So I stopped my car and went out to see any damage.
My car had no damage as I thought would be the case as it was a very minor bump. The other person’s car had a bunch of paint on the bumper and it was dented in. I knew that I didn’t do that damage, but I was stuck. I have been taken advantage of in the past, where someone tried to blame me for damage that was there before. I thought I was going to be in the same place. My panic attack started again and I wanted to flee so badly.
But, that is not the right thing to do. So, knowing this could be ugly for me, I took out a piece of paper and wrote a note with my phone number on the person’s car, letting them know I hit their bumper.
I waited all day for the dreaded phone call. At one point, many hours later, I told my wife that maybe I dodged the bullet and they wouldn’t call. I tried to occupy my mind and not think about what happened, but I was stuck in rumination. Of course, this is a typical feeling that a bullying victim also goes through, worried about what might happen.
Not an hour later, the dreaded phone call came. The man on the other end of the phone said that he was the person whose car I hit. Then, he thanked me for leaving the note and explained that he too had been the victim of hit and run situations and left with the bill. He was quite kind and I told him that I too had that happen and learned never to do that to someone else. I now do the right thing.
He then told me that I didn’t do any damage that wasn’t already there to his car. That it was an old car and had the existing damage. That he would not be doing anything about it. He thanked me again and then invited me to his church. He didn’t know I was Jewish and I didn’t tell him. He was obviously religious and I thought maybe he liked the idea of having people who “do the right thing” in his community. I thanked him for his honesty and kindness and we hung up. All my fear went away and I felt pretty good about doing the right thing at that moment.
We always should feel good about doing the right thing, because it is the right and mature thing to do. But it is sometimes so very difficult in the face of adversity. But that doesn’t mean we don’t do it.
I said I would tie this to bullying and it does in many ways.
- You will not get in trouble for doing the right thing – If you help a bullying victim through bystander support or reporting a bully, you won’t get in trouble. You will simply be seen as a diffuser and supporter of anti-bullying. Easy no, but the right thing to do.
- You will feel good about yourself – maybe not immediately or for quite a while, but when you look back on the way you treated others as you expect to be treated, you will have no regrets about what you did. Easy no, but the right thing to do.
- You will develop a stronger self-image – this may be the most important point. Damaged self-image or self-esteem is a slippery slope to falling into anxiety and depression as well as worry. If you know you are a good person by your actions, you can expect your mind to realize that as well. Easy no, but the right thing to do.
As I developed more self-acceptance and self-esteem, I learned that doing the right thing always kept me in check and made me feel better about myself. No, it is not always easy and when involved in bullying situations, it can be very hard. Here’s a quick story. My son had friends that were his buddies from kindergarten to 12th grade. A new boy came into the group in 12th grade and then the group started cyberbullying a girl that my son was good friends with. My son was not a fan of the new kid as he seemed to be trying to cause trouble. He stood up for her when he could have chosen to side with his lifelong friends. He didn’t, because it wouldn’t be right. He lost all those friends and it hurt him for quite a while. But he knew and he also always knows that he feels better doing the right thing.
Easy no, but the right thing to do.