Letters from the dorm: my way of dealing with bullying - and it isn't to be loving and kind

Cyril Ip

Sometimes the best thing to do when you’re facing hatred is simply to pretend it isn’t there at all

Cyril Ip |

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The phrase “kill them with kindness” is overrated. It promotes benevolence and forgiveness, which is great, but it also brings to mind visions of a perfect, ideal society – one that is utterly unattainable. As a rational person who approaches life analytically, I believe in facing facts. That means a missionary statement like “kill them with kindness” is beyond me – and my latest findings show it’s unnecessary too.

I prefer a different saying: “kill them with blindness”. There will always be people who like you, and people who don’t. Some will actually express how much they don’t like you. Their actions may become harmful to you – for example, if their gossiping ends up ruining your reputation. If you confront these issues with kindness, you are making the effort to forgive the person who did this to you. This sounds like a lot of effort to exert on someone who dislikes you. I prefer to ignore them instead. By refusing to acknowledge their envy and bitterness, I avoid giving into their hatred. Acting like you can’t see when someone doesn’t like you works in your favour – you get to see, and know, exactly why they’re getting frustrated, but they can’t do anything about it. When a hater tries (and fails) to dishearten and frustrate you, you feel good – from a distance. There’s power in knowing they know you aren’t upset by them.

In 2015, London-based journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge blogged that, “some folks have that distance advantage. They pick a topic that they’re vaguely interested in, yet not effected by, and write about it”. Sometimes, people will watch you struggle with their opinions and remain fully unaffected by your reaction, because they’re emotionally removed from it.

My theory of killing them with blindness reverses this distance. They’re looking for a reaction, and your lack of one will annoy them – the very thing they’re hoping will happen to you. When adults teach children to be kind and loving, they should also teach them that people can’t always love each other. The world we live in can’t be one of blissful ignorance, and isn’t one where hatred will always be subsumed by love. A reaction – any reaction – has power in a situation. When you wilfully become blind and overlook the hate, the power is stripped away.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean that kindness is a useless concept. I simply think that people ought to be more aware of the situations they find themselves in. They can determine for themselves whether they are obliged to be kind. Realistically, if they know their actions won’t be reciprocated, they ought to move on. There’s no use trying to exert energy if you’ll get nothing in return. Stay woke, even as you strive to be a kind person. Consider saving your time and energy for people who do love you – like your friends and your family.

Last week was Anti Bullying Week in Britain. The theme and tagline used this year was “All Different, All Equal”. Being different is one of the best things about humanity, and respecting equality is something we’re all capable of. Now that’s a phrase I can get on board with.

Edited by Ginny Wong