Sometimes it's hard to move on from being hurt because you can't stop thinking about getting revenge. In this post, I want to talk about a rather controversial topic that I believe is at the heart of being able to move on. Instead of wanting revenge, I'm talking about having sympathy for the abuser. This is a controversial topic, and I just want to say that I don't take it lightly. I've considered both sides of the argument and what I write here is my opinion based on my experiences.
Which side do you fall on? Do you feel like it's possible to feel sympathy towards whoever hurt you, or does the thought of feeling sympathetic towards that person make you feel angry?
People seem to take sides when it comes to this topic, with no one not caring one way or the other. For me, I used to be on the other side where I couldn't possibly conceive of the idea of feeling bad for those who bullied me. I would've said forget that. I was hung up on revenge, because, in my mind, they were bad people who just wanted to hurt me. Now, this is not going to be a post about making excuses for the bullies. In no way do I support bullies for their behavior. This is a post about helping you feel better.
Here's the thing - we can't change the past, so this isn't about them, it's about you. There are things we can do to prevent kids from bullying today, but we can't undo bullying that has already occurred. All we can do is learn how to move on from what happened. And finding some sympathy for the bully is a way to take a big step toward that end.
Wanting revenge is poisonous just like being bitter, as we talked about in the previous post. Revenge and bitterness feed off of each other. If you can reframe how you look at what happened to you, then it will start to become a little easier to let it go. Working on wanting revenge will also help with overcoming those feelings of bitterness and anger.
All of the feelings that stem from being bullied are related to each other. Working on one usually helps you deal with another. Feeling sympathy for those who hurt you will also make it easier to eventually be able to find forgiveness. That's the other big component to moving on.
Now I think there are two ways of feeling sympathy towards bullies. The first, and typical, is to see them as victims also. This is the view that tends to be controversial. The idea of the bully being a victim is almost unthinkable. Sure, there are bullies who were also bullied themselves, but that's not what I'm referring to here. I'm referring to other non-bullying factors that the bully might be a victim of.
We could say that the bully is a victim of society. That, through no fault of their own, they have been exposed to violence. Either as a witness or as a recipient. We could say that they come from homes that aren't loving and supportive. We could say that they happen to hang around others who encourage their behavior. We could even say that the bully feels insecure. But this isn't what their victims want to hear.
Bullying victims don't seem to give a damn about what the bully has been through in life. They know that not everyone who has been a victim of something becomes a bully. This is what makes it so hard to feel any sympathy. Is this how you see it, too?
The thing with bullying or any other form of abuse, is that the abuser is making a conscious choice. No matter what someone has been through, no one is forcing them to be abusive. Why some people go down this path while others don't still remains to be seen. There are probably many factors involved.
The second way you can feel sympathy towards an abuser is something I want to propose. I think the first way of looking at it makes it very difficult to be sympathetic. Since I think that being sympathetic is important for moving on, I wanted to offer you an alternative view.
I say that instead of making sympathy about making excuses for the abuser, make it about being grateful that you're not an abuser yourself. That you didn't become a bully in the process. Someone who bullies or abuses in any way has a lot of problems. And I don't mean that as an excuse. Just be grateful that as messed up as you feel, you're not so messed up that you turned into the type of person you despise.
I would love to know what you think about this way of using sympathy. Is it still just an excuse for their behavior? My hope is that this way of looking at it will make you realize that you can have sympathy for the abuser and forget about revenge in the process. I hope that you can use this in your process of moving on.
Please leave a comment and let me know if you have any stories or questions.
A note about comments:
Please keep in mind that all comments are moderated to ensure mutual respect. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation.
Danny Dixon says
I really like this alternative view that you have proposed! It’s a healthier way of looking at the bullies situation, while also giving yourself credit for the fact that you didn’t sink to that level and become a bully yourself! Great post 🙂