When People Lump You into A Category Based on The Bad Behavior of Someone Close to You

I hear these stories all the time from people who have a ne’er do well brother, an uncle who’s the town drunk, or a sister who’s notorious for being promiscuous. But whether your dad did a stint in prison, or your mom is perceived by others to be the town nut-job, know that these are things you have no control over and therefore, are not your responsibility. You aren’t defined by the lousy choices or unfortunate circumstances of a few relatives.

Yes, I know that the judgement people heap on top of you hurts and hurts terribly, but I want you to know that you’re an innocent person in all of it. You’re an individual and you shouldn’t feel ashamed of anything because you’ve done nothing wrong. Realize that humans have a bad habit of lumping people into categories, whether justly or unjustly. And they’re wrong for painting you with the same brush based on bad choices a few of your family members made.

People also do this with different races and ethnic groups as well. It seems that many automatically think that all Blacks are thugs, all Whites are racist, all Native Americans are savages, all Hispanics are illegal aliens and so forth.

Yes, I’ve heard all the above statements throughout high school, in a few workplaces, even in the news media and it’s all garbage! We should all know that none of it is true. There are some of the greatest, loving, and most tenderhearted people in every race and there are many who don’t live up to the ignorant stereotypes that society likes to hoist upon them.

Therefore, I want you to know that anyone who puts you in a category with a few evil bad apples, or people who’ve simply made bad choices, doesn’t know the individual you. They do not know your heart nor your inner reality. And they don’t know what you think and feel.

Nobody can possibly know these things but you and God. And if they claim they do know, they’re only playing God by claiming to know the unknowable. Realize that when people perceive you to be someone you aren’t, their thoughts and opinions aren’t worthy of even being considered and you shouldn’t place any value to them.

In fact, you should kick these people to the curb because they aren’t worth your time nor energy. You deserve people in your life who get you- who love you for you and the good you bring to this world.

So, know that you deserve better and that you are not the labels others stick to you.

Targets, Bullies Don’t Know Why They Hate You. They Just Do.

It’s true. If you’re a target of bullying, your bullies more than likely don’t consciously know why they hate you. So, what do they do? They make up reasons.

And the reasons they make up arise from confabulations and hasty generalizations. The reasons also come from long-standing rumors that turn into myths.  These myths may have been around for years- even decades. When a myth or generalization has been the narrative long enough, it goes unquestioned and takes on a life of its own. It’s “just the way it is.” As a result, people become “biased” against the target.

When bullies and others are biased against a person, they accept any myth as truth, and this bias keeps bullies wound up and ready to hurt the target. Bias blinds people and claims to know the truth about a person or group of people without concrete evidence or firsthand knowledge.

People support biases with stereotypes, which are only lies and opinions repeated so often and for so long until society accepts them as the truth.

But know this. If you’re a target of bullies, although others may tag you with labels that don’t apply to you, you don’t have to accept them nor let them define who you are. Only you can define yourself. Nobody else can do it for you. Understand that nobody knows the inner you but you.

Know that you have the power to accept or reject labels. Use that power. Reject your bullies’ definitions of you. Bullies may have a degree of control over your surroundings and, yes, even your physical well-being. They may also control how others view you.

But they can never control what you think of yourself. Bullies can’t control your mind and thoughts without your permission. That power belongs to you and you alone.

Bullying in Oakley During the ’80s: A Man Called “Smiley”

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If you’re an ‘80’s teenager, you probably remember certain people in your neighborhood who didn’t fit in- the village idiot, the town whore, the ne’er do well family, the spinster, the drug-addict, the wino- anyone others saw as different, or an oddball.

Maybe the person was the childless woman, the lifelong bachelor, or the quiet guy who didn’t speak much. The unlucky individual might have had a mental disability- a Vietnam combat veteran who suffered PTSD, perhaps.

Whatever it was about the person, they had ways about them, which seemed “off.”
Although people nowadays don’t pay as much attention to any oddities in certain people, back in the eighties, it was a big deal, especially in a rural, Southern town like Oakley, Tennessee.

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For instance, if you had a gay couple living next door back then, it would cause a huge stink in town, whereas today, it’s accepted. And a person thought to be mentally imbalanced was frowned upon worse than if he’d been a rapist or murderer.

I remember a guy everyone referred to as “Smiley.” He was a poor, widowed, older man who we’d see out early every morning with a trash bag in his hand, picking up tin cans. He always had a smile on his face. But because he always looked bedraggled, people looked down on him.

They would conjure up wild stories about the man only because he was so poor that he couldn’t afford any decent clothes and wore old, dirty attire full of holes. Kids and teens would misinterpret a genuine smile and wave from Smiley as a flirt and that he was trying to come on to them.

Business man not listening to nonsense

Businessman not listening to nonsense

Young boys would run around telling everyone who would listen that the man was gay, and the girls would accuse him of being a perv.

Some would spread rumors that Smiley was some crazy released from the state mental hospital or a serial killer who’d gotten out of prison. Other tales went around about the man as well, one which was that he had AIDS because he was so frail and skinny.

He was a freak
He stank
He was just plain gross
He was a pervert
He looked nasty
He didn’t take baths

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Those were things I’d often hear. People didn’t accept Smiley nor want him around. It was heartbreaking.

These rumors would spread to the parents and other adults in the neighborhood, and they’d tell their children to keep away from him. Some of the adults would see him walking up the street and come outside, screaming obscenities at the poor guy.
The adults would also ask around about Smiley- Had anyone “seen anything suspicious or peculiar out of him?”

People like Smiley were prime targets for vandalism and physical assault. People would throw rocks through their windows, key their cars, or spray-paint the word “FREAK” in big black letters on the side of their houses. Eventually, people like him got severely beaten or worse. Or maybe they’d have no choice but to move away.

We’d like to think that eventually, bullies grow up and get lives of their own, but the reality is that most of them only get worse as they get older.

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Sadly, the same stuff happens today. Innocent people- good people are accused of some of the most unspeakable deeds- all because they’re different somehow. And most of the time, there’s no truth in any of it.

If the rumors are proven to be false, many people will still hold negative views of the person and reject any evidence that he’s innocent- even if the evidence is undeniable.Understand that most bullies (and most people) will believe what’s most familiar to them and what feels right to them. And no amount of evidence to the contrary will change their minds.

If you ever find yourself a target of such people and such rumors, lies, and gossip (mainly for several years), you must focus on taking care of yourself. Focus on you! That’s what Smiley did.

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He didn’t worry about what others were saying. Smiley looked out for himself. He focused on his wants, his needs, his goals, and the few people in town who treated him well. Eventually, he moved away to be near his five children, who loved and took care of him until the day he died.

So, do what’s best for you. And sometimes, what’s best is to get out of the environment altogether. If you have to pack up and move, do it! Go where you can be happy, be yourself, and be free of such negativity.

Your safety, peace, and happiness should be top priority!