It was a story told among closest friends. The story of first love – that special secret night shared between two people REALLY in love. Shyly, she told the story late one night while we huddled together, avoiding our studies. Whispers in confidence between trusted friends.
Silently, I listened to her secret, my own buried deep within – ashamed to tell my secret. Ashamed of the way my life was falling apart while hers was so perfect. Silently, I resented that happiness while I could not find my own. Secretly, I seethed. Secretly, I cried in my own pain while she shared her tremendous joy.
And then on another night shortly after, with a different group of “friends” and bolstered by too much to drink, I longed to hide my shame. I wanted to strike out in my anger and frustration. I longed to be a part of the “cool kids” so that I could forget about my own troubles. The tales were spun around that table, some more gossipy than others; some even hurtful. I ignored the discomfort that I felt in hearing them… I needed to fit in…I blurted it out…that private secret that was not mine to tell…They laughed and joked about it…I knew it was not funny…I knew I had crossed the line…but my bitterness and resentment spilled out as I laughed with the others…For the moment, I did not care, I forgot my own hurt for the sake of another’s…
It got worse…the secret was no longer a secret…the “others” had no issue with relaying the story to EVERYONE…Their romantic, beautiful story was degraded to a bawdy tale to be laughed at by them all. Except the two people that were so much in love. I saw her face when the story was told to the room. I saw the shock and hurt in those eyes. He walked away in anger and she turned toward me. I could not look at her.
Later, she approached me with the others from our little group. “Why?” she asked me. I could not say. I could not tell about my own suffering. I couldn’t say anything. I felt the fear and anger and hurt welling up in my eyes; but I did not speak. I shrugged and walked away. I hurt her and I didn’t even seem to care. I was cold and unemotional. I did not know who I had become.
I am telling you this story to share with you a time when I was a bully.
I had never done anything like that before. I abused my power in holding a precious secret to elevate myself and try to make myself feel better because I was hurting and feeling alone. That’s what a bully is: someone who is going through some terrible pain that they are trying to escape from. They then use their strength, status, and/or position to rise above others.
I was thinking of this story today because of today: “Stand Up Against Bullying” and October being Bully Awareness Month. I read this post too from Bruce of Privilege Of Parenting – Hello Cruel World – please read it when you have time. It will make you think about bullying in a different way. It made me pause to reflect how I have been a bully at times.
Other than this story, I did not think I’d ever been a bully before, but Bruce’s post made me think. It made me aware of the bully within me and how I do project that sometimes.
- Threatened my kids with the “…or else..” phrase
- Pushed my daughter in dance to be better than everyone else so much so that she didn’t want to dance anymore
- Laughed at the expense of someone else
- Gossiped when I know I shouldn’t
- Hurt friends with the “My way or the Highway” attitude at times
- Compared my children to others and been disappointed that they “don’t measure up” – that’s the worst one
I’ve seen it in other parent’s too:
- Screaming at referees at various sporting events, not just hockey
- Not letting a child be with the child of “certain” parent because of their background
- Ranting about “low-income” housing – assuming everyone living there are “bums”
- Assuming that sales people are idiots and talking down to them in a store
- Only hanging around with “the pretty people”, ignoring others that aren’t “in the crowd”
Thankfully, my children have not been the subject of severe bullying. They have been made fun of and put down; but they have been able to bounce back. They have been the bullies too at times and we have talked about that and corrected it when necessary. I think everyone goes through that at some point throughout their lives. That does not mean that it is acceptable, however.
Sadly, this is not the case for so many. More and more, it seems, we hear of the heart-breaking stories of suicides of those that have been bullied. We MUST learn from these and work to STOP it. We must not tolerate bullying from anyone – including ourselves and our own children. We must not be naive in thinking that “it won’t happen to me”.
Be aware, talk to your kids and correct your own behavior too. Set the example.
Apologize, Mend, Forgive. It starts with YOU.
And to my friend that I hurt so long ago – I have apologized often to you in my prayers. I hope someday that we will see each other again so that I can apologize to you in person. For now, wherever you are, please forgive me.