I've sung the praises of booting people who bash you, try to silence you, minimize you, and disrespect you. But I've also advocated respecting those who disagree with you, but aren't doing it to put you down. They do exist, believe it or not.
But then there's another category: The protectors. The fake friends. The pseudo-bullies. The beyss artists. The token collectors. It requires extra scrutiny to weed them out.
Recently, I shared a story on Facebook about high school athletes who befriend and mentor elementary school children who are being bullied. I applaud this wholeheartedly. While it is still sad that the bullies' belief that might makes right is once again validated, it is very encouraging that there are those who are ready, willing, and able to support those who are bullied.
It's certainly comfortable to have a protector. Someone who can deter bullies from attacking you. Someone who can remind the bullies that they're not the juggernauts they think they are. Someone who can reinforce boundaries of respect.
However, the question remains - what happens if the protectors get bored? If they become cynical of protecting those physically weaker than they are? What if they turn on their little buddies . . . Just because they can? Who gets protected then?
Well, I'll share with you a story from my past:
Between college and law school, I re-connected with an old friend. It's not his real name, but I'll call him Bobby. Bobby's parents and mine were friends for years. He was several years older than me, so when I was in elementary school, I liked hanging out with him. He felt like the older brother I never had. I really trusted him. While we had grown apart, but then started hanging out again.
So it seemed like it would be like old times again. He'd show me a few things, and he'd have my back. However, he had a few problems of his own. He had a rocky relationship with his fiancée. He ran into a patch of bad luck and was having trouble keeping a job. And despite his outgoing nature, he had very few friends.
So how did he deal with these hard times? By making life unpleasant for his "little buddy," who was such a goody two-shoes for getting into law school, such an inferior little man because he wasn't so outgoing, and such a pathetically easy target for non-stop criticism because just wasn't "cool." Every time I told him it wasn't ok for him to keep doing that, he always had another excuse.
He alleged that we were just two guys going out and having a good time. In reality, it was a loudmouth who became the center of attention, and his permanent wingman who never seemed to get a word in edgewise. Robin Hood and Little John. Batman and Robin. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. And Bobby had no problem teaching, advising, correcting, and minimizing his "little buddy" in front of everyone. Not a single thought to how embarrassing that might have felt.
Hated. It. Immensely. Once it got so bad that the woman that he was talking to waited until he went to the bathroom and asked me why I was putting up with it. When I confronted him with it later, he said it was because I was like his "widdle bwuddah" and he "had to look out" for me, and the woman was "stupid anyway."
Somewhere in a barn, a male bovine was relieving himself the moment Bobby said this. And I could smell it.
This was the straw that broke the camel's back. While homeboy kept talking, I kept listening. Every time he bashed lawyers out of jealousy. Every time he talked about blue-collar workers being "real men" and white-collar workers being "not interested in the little guy." Every time he boasted about his numerous female conquests (both before and after he got engaged), and put me down for not equaling them (despite the fact that he overtook every conversation with a woman I tried to have). I took notes and went to work.
I emailed him out of the blue about how much I learned from his example. So much so that I was going to withdraw from law school and work at the local junkyard. So much that I was going to start smoking just like he did. So much that I figured out how to talk to "the chicks," and that one of them was making breakfast for me as I was writing that email.
Then I didn't talk to him for a week. He could not stop calling me and emailing me, but I was going to let it marinate for a while. Finally, I got him on the phone and let him babble for a solid half hour about how proud he was of me, and that he would support "whatever choice I made." When he stopped to take a breath, I explained to him that none of it was true, and that I emailed him this story because I got sick and tired of him judging me. After about two minutes of shocked silence, I was treated to another half hour monologue filled with disappointment that I did not rearrange my life to mirror his, justification for his continued unacceptable behavior, and repeated assurance that he was asking "forgiveness for my sins."
I stopped talking to him on a regular basis after that. Especially after he had to move back in with his parents who lived out of state.
Yes, I could have told him flat out that he could either stop treating me like a child or I'd stop talking to him. But with thanks to Lady Kharma, there was no need to do so. Every time he bashed my career choice, he would usually get fired. After making me look less-than in front of the opposite sex enough times, his fiancée called off the wedding. After babbling non-stop about how he knew everything about life when he was 12, he was moving back in with his parents at 30. As I've said before, G-D is even angrier at these people than you are, and He has better tools at His disposal.
HOW TO PREVENT THIS FROM HAPPENING:
As betas, we are sometimes lucky to have someone who can help us in areas where we are lacking. But having that extra protection DOES NOT MEAN that we shouldn't be aware of our own limitations. We can stop worrying about things beyond our control and trust in G-D, but we can NOT put that much faith in other people, even if they are genuinely trying to "look out for us." Because they are also looking out for themselves, and so should we. Even if they're doing the right thing, they won't be around forever.
When we are Bold and Bulletproof, the need for someone to "look out for us" and keep us safe gets much less. While it's good to have some assistance at first, we should strive to eventually become self-actualized enough that we no longer need someone to follow. Quite frankly, at the level, it's actually a little condescending to think you still are thought of as a "little buddy." It's very unsatisfying to play that role for a lifetime.
And if you really want protection, look above. It's not exactly a guarantee, but there are times when you ask and He delivers.
I EXIST. I MATTER. I BELONG. I DESERVE.
I AM BOLD. I AM BULLETPROOF. I AM BETA.