JEFF BEZOS IS SHOWING US HOW TO CONFRONT BULLIES

The headlines are about the billionaire vs. the tabloid. But there is a human story here that we could all learn from. If you were ever bullied in school, or in the workplace, maybe in your neighborhood, consider how it would feel if whatever was being used against you exploded into a story that everyone could read on-line, or see emblazoned on the cover of a tabloid at the supermarket and on newsstands. Think about the humiliation, the vulnerability, the desire to find a remote place to hide until the whole thing dies down.

Being famous, being accustomed to public scrutiny, even being the richest person in the world, doesn’t immunize you from those feelings. The choice is the same whether it’s in a schoolyard or on the world stage: Do you confront the bullies, or do you slink away? It’s never an easy choice. Standing up for yourself means you have to dig deep beneath your fears, your insecurities, your embarrassments, and grab onto a rope you might not have known you had until that moment.

In the mid-Nineties there were several horrible tabloid stories about me and my brother wanting our father to die. It was literally that blatant. They weren’t in the Enquirer; they were in another widely circulated tabloid that is placed next to the Enquirer on newsstands. One assertion was that we would visit our father, bring him chocolate, which he was allergic to, in an effort to kill him. First of all, my father was not allergic to chocolate; second, I don’t think I’ve ever brought chocolate to anyone; third, who is diabolical enough to make this stuff up? (Don’t try to answer that, it will only make you crazy.) A journalist who I’m friends with asked if I wanted to rebut the story, and I said no – I didn’t want to give it more attention. But that wasn’t the real reason. I felt broken, too vulnerable to try and reach inside myself for the courage to stand up and hold them accountable. I was navigating my way through the shadowy landscape of losing a loved one to Alzheimer’s; I didn’t think I had the strength for a battle against a tabloid.

I believe now, if something like that happened, I would handle it differently, but none of us know how brave we would be until a situation is upon us and we’re faced with a choice – stand up and say no or hide and wait it out. Oftentimes we learn about courage by watching other people.

Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

I don’t know Jeff Bezos. I’ve never met him. But I’m pretty sure he had to calculate the weight of humiliation before making the decision to expose the Enquirer’s communications. He basically said as much in his post on medium.com. He wrote, “I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten.” I’m betting there were nights when he lay awake staring at the ceiling, wondering if it would be worth the cost. Standing up for yourself doesn’t mean you don’t look behind at the doubts that tug at you; it means that, despite your trepidations, you forge ahead. It’s a lesson we can all benefit from.

Strength doesn’t come from salacious headlines or mean-spirited tweets. Strength comes from digging into your own soul, searching for what is right, and then using that as a torch to light your way. That torch is just as bright if you are the richest person in the world, or a high school student taunted and bullied by classmates who think they are better than you. Behind the headlines of this story, behind the steamy details and morsels of gossip, there is a lesson to be learned about how to stand up for yourself. We should thank Jeff Bezos for that.

3 Responses to JEFF BEZOS IS SHOWING US HOW TO CONFRONT BULLIES

  1. Michael Baron says:

    Absolutely wonderful post, Patti Davis!! Fantastic quality of writing!! I am extraordinarily thankful for your superb quality of insights and wisdom!!

  2. Tamara says:

    Very inspiring. It reminds us how we are allsso fraigile and it can happen to anyone. Standing up to the bully and facing it head on
    Is the best way to handle it. A lovely human story indeed..

  3. deb kim says:

    I didn’t know about the National Enquirer tabloid story on you and your brother–how terrible! (But then again, I was kind of “out of it” during the mid-90s when I just graduated from college). Nevertheless, wise decision not to bring further attention to it; maybe even I would have heard about the “lawsuit” in the news, if so. But I always knew the Enquirer wrote made-up stories 99% of the time. These days, once in a while they do get a big scoop on a real event, but they are still far-and-wide between. Which brings back to the question of whether Bezos should have sued them. We’ll see; my thinking is that it brought more attention to his embarrassing text/pic exchanges with his lover.

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