By Brooks Gibbs
Valentine’s Day is almost here, and the focus is on love. Even in our nation’s schools, many students exchange Valentine’s Day cards and candy to recognize their friendships and show appreciation of the close bonds with one another.
But what about bullies? How many students will be showing love toward them? It might seem foolish at first thought; after all, why would we show love to the people who cause us so much pain, suffering and misery? The reality: Love is greater than hate, and love is the answer to ending the bullying epidemic.
The ones who hurt us need our love the most. In fact, this is the ultimate pathway to healing — to turn the hate you feel toward someone into genuine love and care for them. This goes against our most basic instincts, but when you love those who hurt you, like a bully, everything changes.
It is possible to love people who are seemingly “unlovable.” It is possible to love even your “enemies.” It’s not always easy, but it is possible.
You might consider several ways to show love toward a bully and reverse the destructive cycle of abuse:
* Change your thinking: To turn your bullies into buddies, you have to start thinking of them as “good guys.” Do boxers hate their sparring partners? Do you think they are mad at them for hitting back and trying to know them out? Of course not. Without them, they would never become successful boxers.
The same thing is true with bullies. Think of them as your sparring partners in the game of life, and they will help you train to be a winner. Where your thoughts go, your feelings follow. If you want to change your feelings toward a bully, reprogram your thoughts about them.
* Change your actions: Love isn’t just thinking about bullies differently; love also requires changing your actions. Consider doing nice things for a bully, like washing his car, offering to buy him lunch or help her with a project. You can turn your enemy into a friend by showing yourself to be friendly.
When someone is nice to us, we feel like being nice back to them. Mother Nature programmed us to treat other people the way they treat us.
* Change your feelings: Showing love to a bully is going to feel fake at first. My encouragement is to simply “fake it till you feel it.” Usually, we only want to love those people that we feel love toward. But you can’t wait for the feeling of love before you show love. You simply have to start thinking loving thoughts, showing loving actions and then loving feelings will follow.
It’s easier to act your way into a feeling than to feel your way into action. If we begin to act lovingly, we will soon feel loving. Feelings follow actions.
Love really shines when hard-to-love people come into our lives and we choose to love them despite what they have done to us. Change begins with love. Love is the key because it is greater than hate — and love is the best way to silence a bully.
Love does not necessarily mean that you must have warm affections, feelings or emotions toward a bully. If you press on, your feelings will dramatically change toward that person — and chances are, their feelings will change toward you.
You can join the growing movement of young people who are taking matters into their own hands by starting a domino effect of love — and changing every student in their school for the better.
— Brooks Gibbs is a national spokesman for the Office Depot Foundation’s “Be The Difference. Speak Up Against Bullying!” Program, sponsored by the band One Direction and Office Depot. He is also the author of the anti-bullying book “Love is Great Than Hate.” For more information, visit www.officedepotfoundation.org/be_the_difference.asp