There’s often no easy way of stopping bullies, unless they decide to stop themselves.
Bullies have the advantage over those who are bullied. They usually exert their tyranny because they are in a situation of power over others, or they inspire fear in those around them.
We’ve all come across some of them at some point in our lives, usually at school, or at work. In fact bullies themselves have often come across other bullies who taught them how to play the macabre game.
There is no trouble-free solution, so sometimes action is needed. I’m not suggesting this action has to be violent, but sometimes we need to stand up to the bullies and say, ‘No’, or teach them a quiet, but clear lesson with actions they may not like.
Although I never recommend provoking bullies, sometimes standing up for ourselves is a feasible alternative, as the following extract from The Help illustrates.
I read The Help by Kathryn Stockett, some years ago, but it is a book that is not easily forgotten.
It is the moving story of three women speaking out against racial discrimination in the Us in the 1960s.
Aibileen is a dutiful albeit bitter black maid. Her friend Minny is her outspoken friend. Skeeter is a well off white girl who is socially conscious and has just graduated college. The three of them write a book about what it was like to be a black maid in a small town in the South, at that time. It is alternately sad, and funny, and shocking, and cruel, and full of hope, too.
There is an unforgettable extract in which Minny tells Miss Celia, her current employer, about the secret ingredient in the chocolate cake she used to cook for her previous employer, Miss Walter’s daughter, the cruel and spiteful, Miss Hilly.
“And that’s how come I did it.”
Miss Celia blinks at me. “What, Minny?”
“I tell her to eat my shit.”
Miss Celia sits there, still looking dazed.
“Then I go home. I mix up that chocolate custard pie. I puts sugar in it and Baker’s chocolate and the real vanilla my cousin bring me from Mexico.
“I tote it over to Miss Walters’s house, where I know Miss Hilly be setting round, waiting for the home to come and get her mama, so she can sell that house. Go through her silver. Collect her due.
“Soon as I put that pie down on the countertop, Miss Hilly smiles, thinking it’s a peace-offering, like that’s my way a showing her I’m real sorry bout what I said. And then I watch her. I watch her eat it myself. Two big pieces. She stuff it in her mouth like she ain’t ever eaten nothing so good. Then she say, ‘I knew you’d change your mind, Minny. I knew I’d get my way in the end.’ And she laugh, kind a prissy, like it was all real funny to her.
“That’s when Miss Walters, she say she getting a mite hungry too and ask for a piece a that pie. I tell her, ‘No ma’am. That one’s special for Miss Hilly.’
“Miss Hilly say, ‘Mama can have some if she wants. Just a little piece, though. What do you put in here, Minny, that makes it taste so good?’
“I say ‘That good vanilla from Mexico’ and then I go head. I tell her what else I put in that pie for her.”
Miss Celia’s still as a stone staring at me, but I can’t meet her eyes now.
“Miss Walters, her mouth fall open. Nobody in that kitchen said anything for so long, I could a made it out the door fore they knew I’s gone. But then Miss Walters start laughing. Laugh so hard she almost fall out the chair. Say, ‘Well, Hilly, that’s what you get, I guess. And I wouldn’t go tattling on Minny either or you’ll be known all over town as the lady who ate two slices of Minny’s shit.’ ”
Here’s my take on stopping bullies in their tracks which I wrote for Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge!
“It’s apple pie. Don’t you like it?”
“I like the chocolate cake your mum makes,” she shouted gobbling it up. “Bring some tomorrow, or I’ll kick you again till your legs turn purple.”
“She’s working double shifts this week, so she hasn’t got any time to cook.”
“Make it yourself.”
“I’m not allowed to cook when mum’s not at home.”
“Find a way if you know what’s good for you,” she warned.
The following day, I watched her swallow greedily and whispered, “I won’t tell anyone whose shit you just ate if you stop bullying me. Deal?”
I do apologise if I’ve offended anyone, but I couldn’t resist writing this 99-word flash, shamelessly inspired by the previous scene in The Help.
If you’d like to read some of the other entries for this week’s carrot ranch stories on showing the bully mentality countered with a different, unexpected or kind action. We’ve all thought of ways to unplug a bully’s power, and show characters with strength and dignity and even humor, here are our stories.
If you’d like to take part in the next upcoming #1000Speak for compassion blog events — “Building from Bullies.” After a successful launch of compassionate blogging on February 20, bloggers are asked to write about the anti-bullying theme on March 20.