Why the title is because I feel it’s appropriate. Not so long ago, I read Mitch Albom’s book For One More Day. There, a number of pages were titled “Time I Stood Up for My Mother” and “Time I Didn’t Stand Up for My Mother.” Now this isn’t about my mother or anyone’s. Right now, I’m focusing on the standing up part, especially for yourself.
This is about standing up to bullies.
We’re adults now, not kids in a school yard. Unfortunately, bullying is a reality happening in the adult world, too. Not always, not everywhere we go, but yes, it does happen. Cyber bullying, bullying in the workplace, gender discrimination, the rich and powerful stomping on the poor and powerless…It’s just one big, messed up school yard for grown-ups. How do we learn life’s lessons the right way?
In Albom’s book, there were also pages titled “Time My Mother Stood Up for Me.” Guess what? Mom or Dad or Big Brother or Big Sister, they can’t anymore save us. Oh, boo-hoo! Again, we’re adults now. It’s time for us to really grow up and fight our own battles.
Of course, there are times that we have to weigh things. Fight our own battles, but choose our battles wisely. I remember in the past that every time I took Psychological tests for work, I encountered the same tests several times and one question was of a situation-based hypothetical nature. It went something like this:
If you were in a line and somebody cut in front of you, what would you do?
Normally, and I experience this on a regular basis, I tell that someone nicely to go to the end of the line, nicely as long as s/he doesn’t try to weasel his/her way through crooked reasoning.
For the aforementioned question, however, I always chose the neutral answer. It wasn’t to play safe and not seem too aggressive for their taste, not even me being too much of a scaredy cat. My reasoning that could not be explained in the test itself was that I would have to first assess the situation–Would I simply talk to a gruff, dangerous-looking man, if ever? (of course, stereotypes aside) Would he look like someone I could logically talk to? What if he wouldn’t leave? What alternatives could be done?
You know, this is not cowardice. This is what we call self-preservation. If we can live with our decision (I mean that both literally and figuratively), then let’s live to fight another day. Meanwhile, there are big battles that may be dangerous as well yet we choose to fight. If it involves our own honor, would we do it?
So now we come to that part where you understand my title. Let me tell a story.
I used to belong to a group. Let’s just say a “grade school” to protect identities (as I mean no harm; I still respect the “school” and the great people I met there) and for an easier analogy. Let’s suppose the school had different “branches” in various locations, some very far. In one, I was a “teacher” who was lucky to have been instrumental in giving our “students” opportunity to gain “scholarships” to a prestigious “high school.” It was our second year in the partnership with the said high school. The “School Superintendent” (SS) gave me the task again to coordinate with the other branches for a smooth scholarship application flow. Naturally, I did my job long before the deadline set by the high school. Months after months passed and I had to keep reminding the branches about the requirements.
Deadline near, we came up with only one student from a far-away branch (Branch 1) who decided she would try. The branch sent the requirements on time and arranged for her travel; she was to be accompanied by a teacher from that branch. Meanwhile, another branch (Branch 2, which was not that far) contacted me too late and I had to ask the high school’s representative if it would be possible to still accept the application. The representative said he would be on leave for a week, the same week of the exams, but if we could send the complete requirements by the certain date he mentioned, there would be no problem. He would inform the high school guards to let the second student in.
I communicated this information to Branch 2, told them it would be faster if they directly sent the complete requirements themselves. Needless to say, they agreed and when I followed up, one of the Branch 2 teachers in charge of taking care of the matter said they were able to talk to the representative and things were set. So I was happy until the day of the exam. Well, the Branch 1 student and her teacher, M, arrived a day before and we two teachers hit it off, talking like we were old friends.
So anyway, the day of the exam came. We went to the high school and there we met the Branch 2 student and her two male teachers, J and W. I knew J because he worked for sometime in Branch 1 and choreographed dances for us as well. W, I knew through my phone interactions regarding the scholarship, plus he was the fiance of R, whom I met personally before and liked. I was sincerely glad to see them. The problem was the guards wouldn’t let Branch 2 in. Mr. Representative did not include the name of their student. We all had to go to the Admissions Office to clear this up but we couldn’t do anything about it and were just told to have the child take her exams after two months instead.
Now, it was very unfortunate but what could we do? I just smiled at the guys and said we’d just have to come back in February then since the representative wasn’t there. They went back home. That was a Sunday. Then I had the worst week after. I got this email from the Branch 2 “Principal” (I changed names, several terms and phone numbers, you understand. Otherwise, everything is in verbatim. Forgive his grammar):
Last December 13, Student 2 is scheduled to take her entrance exams in the High School, together with a child from Branch 1, as part of our partnership with the High School Scholarship Grant. She went there and was accompanied by my teachers but, of course, as you knew earlier, Student 2’s name was not on the list. We have talked with Mr. Representative of the Grant Office and told our teacher that he already told your office last week that Student 2’s examination will be re-scheduled. You did not inform us immediately and even upon seeing Student 2 and the teachers in the High School you did not inform them too. You just asked them who they were and told them to just go home.
Thus, I would like to inform your office that Branch 2 will directly communicate with Mr. Representative of the High School Students Grant Office for Branch 2’s exams and other requirements. We will just furnish you a copy of our communications. However, if Mr. Representative still course the communications to you, kindly forward it immediately to our branch. Our phone number is _________ or fax _________.
I hope such classic miscommunications between the branch and your office will be eliminated. And kindly accord a little respect or courtesy with our teachers. They too are working hard for our students.
Say WHAT???!!! Were those teachers talking to my doppelganger? Were we in the same location that Sunday? ‘Cause I didn’t remember anything about treating them badly. I texted this to the Branch 1 teacher and she was so surprised, saying “I was there! When did that ever happen???”
Well, only one thing came to mind: those teachers messed up and made up all those lies to the Principal who was probably all too happy to finally put me in trouble. He didn’t like me in the first place because I only did my job in the past and several times, it so happened, he wanted to do something different from what I advised. No problem for me, I just thought that at least I did my job and it was always up to him to decide. As a sign of respect, I ALWAYS apologized if ever he found anything I said or did offensive, and he always said it was just alright. Now a lot of people had warned me how totally vindictive the guy was and then there it was, the PROOF. He emailed his concern to me AND copy-furnished the School Superintendent!
That would have been acceptable had he simply copy-furnished my direct superior first, my “Department Head,” and let her find out my side of the story. There were several people he could have thought of first of informing before the SS. I clearly saw it as a way to humiliate me, maybe even get me fired. Or maybe scare me even, say sorry for something I didn’t even do. Well, guess what? He wanted transparency, I gave him one. I wasn’t going to be bullied this way. Enough was ENOUGH! I sent him a reply AND copy-furnished the SS. Why would I be scared for something or things they claimed I did but I know I didn’t do?
Dear Mr. B.,
First of all, I would like to correct the following:
(1) Mr. Representative DID NOT say that there was to be a re-scheduling. Our understanding was both Branch 2 and Branch 1 could send directly to him, through LBC, the missing requirements. He could wait even until the week before the exam so that the kids could take the exam on December 13. I specifically told your office/staff to communicate directly to him as well so that it would be faster. On December 9, Ms. Another-Branch2-Teacher texted me this (and it’s still in my cellphone): “Good evening, Ms. Gi. W already contacted the guy in the High School and they have already made an arrangement.” [Ed. Quote translated from Filipino] It was sent using text lingo, so I just spelled out all the words here. When I saw W and J, they told me that Mr. Representative told them that they could simply get the permit from the guard if they already completed the requirements. That was also what they told the person at the Admissions Office. So that person said Student 2 will have to take the exam in February instead. Monday morning, Mr. Representative contacted me and said the requirements only reached him THAT MORNING. I also texted your staff about this information and said to please contact Mr. Representative. All my text messages and emails and the messages sent to me are in my cellphone so if you would like to check, Sir, feel free to check, Sir.
(2). “You just asked them who they were.” I didn’t just ask them who they were as if I didn’t know them. I said, “What are your names again?” because as a human being, I am prone to forget names even if, for instance, J had already choreographed our dances several times. I even laughed a bit out of embarrassment because I forgot.
“…and told them to just go home.” I was not being crass and saying that I “told them to just go home” makes it sound like I dismissed them or that I didn’t care. Neither. I couldn’t do anything more about it either especially since the High School person involved, Mr. Representative, was not there. He already told us that that was why he said we could simply get the permit from the guard. Branch 1 got theirs.
(3) “I hope such classic miscommunications between the branch and your office will be eliminated.” This is also my hope. However, I don’t think it was my fault.
(4) “And kindly accord a little respect or courtesy with my teachers. They too are working hard for our students.” I do not know if this is what they said to you but when we were talking and parted ways, we were in good terms. I have never undermined them. It is not my place and I do not think of myself that highly as well. For one, I liked J. We were not friends but we were chummy, at least. I also like R and as we know, she is W’s girlfriend. I have always treated co-workers with respect be they janitors, teachers, bosses, etcetera.
Sir, it is good that you care for your children and your staff. But if you could also kindly accord me a little respect and courtesy the way you do them, it will be very much appreciated. If it is my fault – and I’m not saying it is Branch 2’s – I would apologize. I have always apologized to you, Sir. But this time, please allow me not to apologize. I realize that this might get me on your bad side but there is nothing I can do as I know in my heart what happened.
After that, B emailed a simple, one-line apology, and not even copy-furnishing the SS But I doubted everything about that apology. He had done that to me, too, so many times. I think I replied with a thank you, the SS getting a copy. The funny-in-a-not-so-ha-ha thing was I got to exchange private messages with W in Facebook. He vehemently denied doing anything wrong and insisted that everything was my fault. Actually, my comments were just as formal but stinging as my email to their Principal. I couldn’t believe W would have the gall to even deny lying. Supposed there was a miscommunication (and I still would be sure it would not have been my fault considering how much I tried to do the job well), that would have to do with inter-office relations. What I didn’t and still don’t understand were the blatant lies they said about my supposed behavior towards them at the High School. Wow. Self-denial, anyone?
Maybe some would think I was foolish to do this. Maybe I was. Maybe that was suicidal. But could I live with myself knowing I just let people murder my character?
I realize that as a person trying to be better now, this probably does not show that I am even trying. But with bullying getting worse in this world and not anymore confined in school and exclusive to kids, I think this should serve as a reminder that yes, we should choose our battles well, but there is a difference between being wise and being a sorry pushover.
Copyright © 2014 J.Gi Federizo
*All images from the net and linked to sources
I shared this because some people who had been victims of an online bully came out in the open. I thought it would be good to share my own bully-story, just to say that we shouldn’t give bullies the power over us. Do you have your own bully-story? We won’t mind if you share it in a comment or provide a link to it from your blog 🙂