Father's Journal / Confessions of a bully
Published 3:45 pm, Tuesday, October 19, 2010
It seems like every day another horrific story comes out of a young life cut short by suicide, because of bullying. Now there is a national campaign underway where celebrities come forward and tell how they were bullied, and urge teenagers to hang on because it gets better. They stress that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
A few years ago, Mill Hill Elementary School brought in a bullying expert for an evening with parents. The expert asked how many parents felt their child had at one point been bullied. All of the approximately 150 parents in attendance raised their hands. Then the expert asked how many felt their children were capable of being bullies. One lone dad raised his hand. You should have seen the look his wife gave him. One hundred and fifty kids bullied, and only one bully. I know the family. Their bully is not that ambitious.
I know, because in elementary school I was a bully. I was much bigger than the other kids were and an older brother bullied me, so I fell into the role of bully at school. Most bullies are psychological bullies. I was not. I wasn't that bright. I was big. Our school system did not have zero tolerance policy for fights. So often at recess, there would be fights.
Of all the fights I was in, I can only remember one being broken up by a school staff person. This other kid and I had just fought and he was lying in the snow. The kids who gathered around started yelling for me to bury him. Bullies want to fit in just like anyone else. Bullies are dying for acceptance. So when a crowd, of which you would like to be a part of, eggs you on to bury a classmate in the snow, and you are a bully, you do it.
I remember it in detail. The child just covered up his face with his hat. I got him most of the way buried before the recess monitor got there. I don't remember if I was disciplined but I still remember the way the child pulled his stocking cap down to protect his face. He then put his hands under the stocking cap and stretched it out so he could have an air pocket to breathe. I remember thinking that that was pretty clever. However, it did not stop me from burying him. It took a long time, and I desperately wanted him to get up and run away. Why didn't he run? He didn't run, and I felt because of the crowd pressure, that I was forced to bury him.
There were many fights. I don't remember every kids' name but I wish I could go back and apologize to each and every one. Perhaps explain to them what was going on in my life at the time. I often pray that they did not continue the cycle of violence. I recently Googled some of the kids' names and contemplated contacting them and apologizing, but in the end I didn't. I can't remember most of their names.
I stopped being a bully when I moved several states away to a bigger school where I knew no one. I got in three fights the first three days. The third one was with an upperclassman. I lost spectacularly. That loss combined with my older brother leaving home cured me of most of my bullying.
So, to the kids who are being bullied, I echo the sentiments of the celebrity campaign -- that nothing is worth taking your life. Reach out to someone, anyone. You would be amazed at your support system if you give them a chance. You may even look back on this and laugh; it will be dark humor but still humor. Things will get better. These people will be out of your life soon and you will not remember their names in a few years. Most of all don't perpetuate the cycle. Do not take this bullying out on anyone, including and especially yourself.
To the bullies (most of you don't recognize who you are), I would give the exact same advice.