December 12, 2011

Into the abyss

Two women point a finger at each other. Both feel victimized. Both appear to be engaging in bullying behavior. In a recent email exchange with CiviliNation founder Andrea Weckerle, I asked her about this phenomenon.

"The line between good and bad is sometimes a hard one to draw," she explained. "In cases of long term conflict, sometimes the initial target will become an aggressor as well. Engage in bullying behavior in what she perceives as a defensive manner."

If that is the case, the target-bully will probably not see her own contribution to the situation, but gauge it as self-protective behavior caused by the initiator-bully, Andrea continued.

But isn't it a classic case of two wrongs not making a right? It is far from a black and white issue. "Even aggressors are not all bad," Weckerle stated. "When people become so emotionally jacked up, they lose the ability to think clearly and rationally."

I have been placed in the middle of situations where it is nearly impossible to determine what is really going on. There exists a long cycle of past behavior and interaction that I am not privy to. Many times, what I find is that at present both parties are engaging in bullying behavior, aimed at each other. 

A cycle of bullying quickly spirals out of control. The only way it can end is for someone to let go and walk away from the situation. In the end, Weckerle says, "It comes back to taking ownership and responsibility for oneself." 

That may sound simple, but rarely is. "Many people are disinclined to want to take responsibility for their own behavior, and instead blame external factors as 'making' them act a particular way." Or they may be so invested in the situation, the behavior so ingrained that they don't know how to stop.

I wanted to try do something about cyber bullying between moms. That's why I started the Take the Pledge Campaign. But this issue is far bigger than I realized. And months later, I continue to be surprised and saddened every single day by the things moms will say and do to each other.

The biggest thing I have learned is how little I really knew about this size and scope of this issue. There is a great deal of deep-seeded, long-term conflict out there. Animosity and pure hatred, even among those who share beliefs and support the same causes.

I am often contacted by both parties or "sides" of an ongoing feud (for lack of a better word). The emails include links to blog posts and/or comments made on social networking sites. Most of the time, the individuals involved are not members of The Mom Pledge Community. It's rarely clear what action I am expected to take.

The intent of the Mom Pledge is for individuals to take responsibility for their own behavior. Not for me to step in between two people or groups and play referee. Or take on the roles of judge and jury. I am not qualified to do so.

Not everyone will agree with The Mom Pledge's approach to cyber bullying. Some have chosen to leave our community; others not to join. I have recently had some great conversations with individuals who have different thoughts about the best way to deal with the issue.

Healthy dialogue IS a good thing. When people are working toward the same end, even if they have different methods, they can look at ways to support and learn from one another and keep an eye on the big picture. The Mom Pledge began as an idea I had. It will - and should - continue to evolve.

For now, it is about a woman who agrees with its principles taking responsibility for her own online behavior and saying, "I will set the right example." If enough of us do that, I truly believe we can make a difference. Together.

Coming up: A lot of victims of cyber bullying are choosing to "call out" their attackers publicly. It is something I am seeing more and more, and I will be discussing it in an upcoming post. It has really made me think, and I look forward to your thoughts on the issue...

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