Monday, May 15, 2006

We may unknowingly encourage bullies

I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.
- Marcus Aurelius, philosopher (121-180)

Each of us values ourself higher than any other person. That's not to say that we would not give our life to save a loved one. It means that we have more of a vested interest in ourselves than in anyone else.

We think we are important because we are the only person we know well.

Then why, Aurelius asks, do we pay any attention to others who express opinions about us? Why are the opinions of others about us more important to us than our own opinion?

We live in a social environment. As social beings, we depend on each other. We rank each other, without thinking about it, in a hierarchy of our own making. We put ourselves in that hierarchy.

Those who are aggressive, who tend to dominate, who express their opinions forcefully and who are not shy about putting down others, we tend to rank higher than ourselves. In prehistoric (even pre-human) times, our ancient ancestors needed those who were bravest, most aggressive and boldest as leaders, as defenders, as protectors, as the best hunters and the best warriors.

Without thinking about it, we still give credibility to people who act in this way, even though we no longer have any reason to respect such people.

The people who put others down tend to be socially immature and insecure (despite the fact they may act the opposite) and they may not rank as high on the social scale as the people they criticize.

When someone criticizes you, take it as a compliment from someone who is socially inferior to you and less socially secure than you. It's true, no matter how they may try to hide it.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to show up the bullies for what they really are.
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