Gracious Civility: A personal uptake on Scilla Elworthy’s talk about how to deal with bullying without becoming a thug

Wow! It’s been over a year since my last publication. To say that I have been busy with the numerous military familial transitions can be seen either way – as an understatement or a convenient excuse. Bottom line, I am happy to be back to the weblogging business!

Firstly, listen to Scilla Elworthy talk on fighting with nonviolence. It is remarkable!


The speech delivered by Scilla Elworthy, a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and a recipient of the Niwano Peace Prize, on August 2012 TED Conference, about fighting with non-violence, resonated deeply with me. Given all that’s recently happened to my latest active community participation, what will I stand up for? How do I deal with an aggressor without turning into the character I loathe? According to Scilla Elworthy, bullies use violence in three ways. They use political violence to intimidate, physical violence to terrorize, and mental and emotional violence to undermine.

Wisdom is developed through a careful understanding of life experience.

Mastery of fear.

I knew I needed to gain complete control of the fear forced upon me by a recent unfortunate event. The unfortunate event happened inside my home, and it involved the spouse of an O6 naval officer in the community. I had an event in my house (this event was canceled) related to the “controversial” brand new committee of a spouses association that I chaired. I will not bore you with details. Suffice to say that the spouse, who I hospitably welcomed in the safety of my house, brandished her husband’s supposed position and influence in the community.  She not only insulted me, but she also suggested a possible backlash. How she continually emphasized her husband’s position and influence, matched with a stress on the word, consequences, implicitly posed an ominous threat. It was ridiculous.

I viewed her words and demeanor as calculatingly intimidating and implying threats.

I can look back at the incident at any given time and say that I handled myself with a high level of gracious civility. Over and over, I gave her a chance to rethink about her aggressive behavior towards me. I was exceptionally accommodating and generous at opening a sincerely effective line of adult communication. My offer, unfortunately, fell on deaf ears.

I resigned the chairmanship of the brand new committee from the spouses association not because I couldn’t handle the responsibility. The committee was off to a great start. I chose to leave because of the level of ridiculousness within the framework of the association that has been allowed to happen. At that point, I knew that stepping away was more sensible.

I realized that, alongside my heartfelt appreciation, to the strong support I received from wonderful people (some of whom I haven’t even met), I would also need to overcome the silliness (if not terribly outrageous) reactions I have seen and heard from some people and the resounding apathy from many. Despite informing of the incident, not just to my committee members, but also to the Board of the Association, the situation was not just ignored, to compound it, I was censured. It was a particularly challenging situation.

Despite my outrage,  I remained optimistic. I knew, I was on the side of justice, and so quickly, I learned to master fear.

More importantly, as I finally overcame the shock, I recognized that I would need to go through the process of pain and anger.

Managing the anger.

I am of the same mind with Elworthy when she stresses that, it is okay to be angry with the unfortunate circumstance, but it is hopeless to be angry with the people, and in my case, it is also pointless to foster a strong grudge on the organization that turned its back on me. I was censured by the Association; I was de-friended from the association’s Facebook page while the leadership and many members of the group pretended that the incident never happened. The unfortunate event was fully witnessed by a non-association member who has been volunteering for the committee since its first meeting, and so I knew that I did not just imagine the outrageous behavior of the O6 spouse. Even so,  I am in agreement with Elworthy when she points out that what is totally empowering is demonstrating the ability to use anger as a fuel and to put it inside an engine and move forward.

Some of the letters of support I received from wonderful ladies reveal that what happened to me within the association was not the only incident of bullying. And so, I intend to use my outrage to engage others to open an honestly respectful and safe conversation about what is happening in the community, so we can genuinely begin the process of healing. No band-aids. No cover ups. I can only wish that everyone will see that I do not seek discord or retaliation when I speak up and make a stand on what has happened to me. I hope that people see my opening up as an opportunity to conduct a fair dialogue, to address a growing concern in the community. I have no doubt, given a chance, this is a win-win situation for everyone.

Yesterday, I saw the O6 spouse for the first time since the incident. I was beyond relieved that the only emotion I felt at the moment was of peace. No fear. No anger. Just soothing quietness.

So, what should I stand up for? I have always been an optimist, an idealist. Charity to me is not just about opening hands and hearts. It is breathing hope and faith in the generosity of people and in their ability to evolve in their ways for the better. Always, for the better. I am a passionate advocate of gracious civility. I encourage everyone to raise a future generation of well-minded, purpose-driven, tolerant, and responsible, global citizens. By making a conscious effort to embrace the gift of individual differences and live the virtues of respect, tolerance, and gracious civility, I actively promote a bully free world for everyone. And parallel to my mantra on charity, a bully free world begins at home.

It is baffling how in a grown-up environment, adults would act rather childishly. I was disappointed at how some people speculate (more like gossip about) and misread my current level of general well-being when the well thought out thing to do is just directly ask me about it. I am doing fantastic, considering what I was put through.

Sometimes, fear makes people do unthinkable things. In many cases, anger does not only undermine good relations, but it also disables people from thinking rationally. As a result,  the process creates a greater divide. Again, how do I deal with grown up bullies without becoming a thug? Gracious civility. How do I handle intimidation and possible backlash? Gracious civility.



The Stop Bullying Now (stand up.speak up) logo within this picture is courtesy of My Security Sign website.


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