How A Bully Really Feels
This week’s blog is dedicated to my cousin and the experience she suffered just a few days ago. Bullying has no boundaries!
This is a topic that is often at the for-front of news. I have seen and felt the pain from both sides of this ugly truth. It is something that I grew up with. I was a member of a group of bullies. We were lucky because there was no label for us back then we were just kids being kids. I am here to tell you today that we were not just being kids. We were mean and controlling, we forced people to dress the way we did, they had to walk on the opposite side of the road and we humiliated others just for fun. I could tell you many stories of the things I witnessed by being a part of that group. I won’t because I have compassion for the victims of our behavior. I am certain that some of them still bear the scars of the past and I will not poor salt in their wounds just for a story. I am only writing this to expose myself and the others that took part in our crimes of cruelty. I was a minor and hardly knew right from wrong but I knew we were being mean.
I was afraid to be different, to speak out or to have my peers not except me. I was silenced by my own fear and I did not want to become the victim myself, so I said nothing. I followed our leader like a good soldier would. I took cheap shots at others with my riffle of hurtful words. I no longer see any of these peers and I most likely missed out on some amazing friendship with the people I hurt. I was around 13 years old when I left grade school and the bullying behind. High school was hard and I started seeing life from the victim’s side. I took a new stand and started defending anyone that seemed singled out. I felt empowered, I was a martyr, and I made others accountable by humiliating them for their cruel acts. I had no idea I was still a bully. I once told a teacher in class that a fellow student was being picked on and if he was going to do nothing than I would. I stopped the entire class to settle things by exposing the letter being passed around. He responded by telling me he would see me after class. I looked him in the eye and said,” no you won’t” and I walked out. I felt empowered and it fed into my belief that I was doing great things. Looking back I made the young woman a new kind of victim. I made her an example of my wrong doing. I did the same for/to many more people just so I could feel good. I probably just added to their pain or caused a new kind of suffering for them. She most likely felt the way I did when I was forced to be a part of a group I didn’t like. I should have thought about her feelings but I was too busy worrying about mine. I made her a part of my group weather she liked it or not. I was still a bully.
As an adult I now understand what I did and why I should have done things differently but I can’t go back. All I can say is I am sorry. I wish I could change the past but I am trying to change the future by painting the world happy one smile at a time, starting with my own children.
This was my response to her facebook post. Below my response you can read her story in her words and follow the link at the end to read comments left by friends, family and supporters.
Life is not always fair but it would be nice if people were. Teach your children because someday they will be teachers and that could be scary!
I am a person of forgiveness and understanding but this is not OK. There is no excuse for their behavior and accountability is the only way they will see it for what it was. It was stupid, it was mean, it was sad, and it was wrong. It is not fair to them to allow them to continue down the path they are headed. I supported and loved my children through some wrong doings but never would I give them a pass on this behavior. If I were you Lisa Cullen I would find myself back at that mall armed with your strong will and determination. I would find them and face them but not alone. It may become a feeding frenzy for them but I promise you that it will prevent them from acting out the next time, with the next person. I know how they think and as much as they want to look cool they won’t take a chance on looking like a fool. Lesson learned or not, it will at least teach them to shut up!
To the young men who decided it was a fun Saturday afternoon mall activity to be cruel to a stranger
To the young men who decided it was a fun Saturday afternoon mall activity to be cruel to a stranger,
You may never see this note I am writing to you, even if you do you may not even grasp that it is about you, you may never even care if you did realize it was about you and perhaps none of that really matters. However, if this note helps one person to think twice before behaving in a cruel way to another then it will be worth it. Part of me is very apprehensive about putting this out there knowing that it may make me another target to other cruel comments and it may compound the shame and embarrassment your cruelty made me feel today but I have never been a coward in my life, I have been many things and not all of them good but a coward is not one of them so here it goes and if you do happen to see it I hope that it helps you to realize your actions and words have impact and only you can choose whether you want that impact to be for the good or detriment of another human being…I can tell you from personal experience of making many mistakes of my own that it is a much better feeling YOU will come out with when you empower others rather than tear them down. It not only makes the world of difference for the other person but it makes the world of difference for you as well.
You didn’t know me or my story, you didn’t know my name, what I might or might not be struggling with, what brought me to where I was. You didn’t know if I was a nice person or a terrible person, if I was a mother, grand mother, sister, aunt in short you knew nothing at all about me, except what you created in your own judgement of me. You didn’t know me but you did decide to judge me and you decided that your judgement of me entitled you to be cruel and hurtful.
You didn’t know me any more than I knew you. I could have looked at you all and based on what I saw come to the conclusion that you were a group of healthy, happy, well off, fit, good looking young men who had life by the tail. It would be easy to come to that conclusion by what I saw but maybe my years on this earth have taught me that what you see is often not a reflection of who a person is or what their life is like. I couldn’t know by looking at any one of you if perhaps your health poor. I couldn’t tell if your family was struggling financially and you worked hard for the items you had in your possession. I couldn’t tell if your home life was not so sunny and maybe you lived in a world of abuse and fear when you went home. I couldn’t tell by looking at you if you struggled with depression or suicidal thoughts or if you just had your heart broken. None of that was clear to me by simply looking at you, any more than looking at me you could form an opinion of who I was or what my life was.
The difference being is that I did not assume or judge you based on your look. I did not decide that based on my own judgement that I had the right to single you out and make crude cruel jokes about you, to laugh at you and make hurtful comments, deliberately coming to stand beside you so that you could not miss them. I did not judge you and still I can’t find it within myself to judge you even though I really want to be able to do that at the moment. Part of me wonders what you went through to be so unkind to someone who you don’t even know, someone who did nothing to hurt you, someone who was clearly upset by your actions. I wonder if it was just a desire to fit in and not look weak to your peers, each of you afraid to show kindness out of fear your friends might turn on you next. Was it out of some pain you have been made to suffer at the hands of someone else? Even now I am saddened by the thought that not one of you found the courage within yourself to walk away, say something against the others or to realize that actions like this are not ok, that they are hurtful, cruel and unnecessary. At first I felt worthless, ashamed, embarrassed and any number of emotions that are horrible that you can think of, my guess is that might have been the intention for the comments made to me, if so, you succeeded…briefly. I was an easy target I guess. Yes I am obese and sitting in a wheelchair and I happened to be briefly alone, so that is an easy target for sure to some with little understanding. I have come to realize though that bullying happens to many people regardless of their appearance or vulnerabilities and that the bullying has little to do with the person being bullied and everything to do with those doing the bullying. My weight or disability was not the problem, the problem was
a) your belief that those two things summed up the measure of who I am and
b) that you decided these two things made me a lesser human being that did not deserve courtesy, decency, respect and the freedom to be in public without risky ridicule
my mistake was buying into your belief about myself even for a short period of time.
You did not know from looking at me, ANYTHING, about my life, my struggles, successes, failures, good points or bad. You decided that I was fat, lazy and useless and that was the reason I was in a wheelchair. The term “waste of space on an epic level” that one of you uttered without even having the courage to look me in the eye shows you do not know me. I am far from perfect and at 49 years old I have make more than my fair share of mistakes, I have even caused some hurt in my life of which I am deeply ashamed of and hopefully someday years from now if you are lucky enough to have a family and children you will realize that being cruel is not acceptable on any level, even for someone you decided was a “waste of space on an epic level” and you will teach your children compassion and kindness so as not to continue this cycle of hate.
Would it or should it have made a difference if you knew that I was born a medically fragile child and despite my many medical conditions that I have spent my life fighting hard to make that fact NOT make a difference between me and others who have no medical issues? Would it or should it matter that in fact I am in this wheelchair because at 27 years old I was diagnosed with MS on top of already having two other medical conditions and that many of the medications I now take not only for my MS but also for my Epilepsy and other conditions cause weight gain and that I work hard to try and not continue to gain weight. Would it or should it matter that I used to be a runner, a professional dog and horse trainer and behaviorist and that I spent much of my adult life working with youth at risk and maybe just maybe I made a difference in one or two of their lives for the better. Would it or should it matter that even now when I can’t work to make an income because who want’s to hire someone who can only work a few hours at a time that I still volunteer with my community and try to do something to make life a little easier for others where I can. Would it or should it matter that I am actually not completely stupid (I refuse to use the word you used to describe my intelligence) and that I have successfully written a book that was published (not a complete idiot I guess) or that despite the fact that it is physically exhausting to get out like I did today and that it requires a lot of assistance to do so I still try to get out in the world when I can. Would or should it matter that the reason my teeth are damaged is because after multiple seizures they have broken to the bone in some cases causing me immense pain and it is not just because I am too lazy to brush them, in fact I am obsessive about brushing and flossing because I HAVE to protect my teeth because of the damage to them. WOULD OR SHOULD any of that matter and if it does WHY does it matter. Why would knowing these things about me mean that I would not be bullied over not knowing them? Why does anyone NEED to know the details about another persons reason for being who, where and how they are before giving them the respect and kindness that anyone should be given?
I sunk to an all time low today when I allowed your actions to make me feel worthless, ashamed, embarrassed and loathe myself, I should never allowed that to occur. I know who I am, I know why my battle scars are present and what made them, I know what is in my control and what is not, I know that I am worthy of love and kindness and I allowed you to forget that briefly. You did not MAKE me feel this, I allowed it because you do not have that power over me, you have power over your own actions only… I have power over how I respond so Thank you for reminding me that my value does not lie in the some of my exterior appearance or my Differently-Abled Body but within me and within me is an average person struggling like so many others to get by in this world and hopefully make a small difference. Your mistake was in not getting to know me for who I am..who knows you might have liked the real me. I really hope somehow you see this and understand so you decide to choose kindness over cruelty if not I hope at least someone else who might make a different choice after reading this.
To others out there that may have experienced the same thing as I did today please remember bullies have no power over you, the power is within yourself so take it back and don’t let them steal your thunder, you are not the sum of your appearance, abilities or how someone else perceives you.Be kind to each other people and please share this so maybe these young men or someone like them can understand. Thanks