On Bullying

Since I am setting foot on a plane in a few minutes, I thought I would recycle one of my old posts:

I spent some time this morning talking about love and forgiveness, particularly perverted, twisted applications of these concepts.

I have lots and lots of stories to tell about these subjects. I am privileged to get hear some of the most private and painful details about people’s lives. But those stories are privileged and will never be discussed in this forum, even anonymously.

Instead, I will use a personal story.

In elementary, I attended a rather exclusive private Christian school. My parents, however, were relatively poor. I got my clothes from second hand shops. And my father had been crippled from polio as a child, he walked “funny”. As a consequence, I was picked on. Each year, it got worse.

I was never invited to birthday parties. I found that there was no point in trying to sit at a table with other children. If I did, I would be asked to move down a seat or two to accommodate someone’s friends. Once I was situated in my new spot, I would be asked to move again. And so on until I had to move to another table. No one spoke to me. Not even the teachers. I would test my voice out to make sure it worked. Some classmates interpreted my silence as prudishness. I learned what the word prude meant when someone put a Valentine accusing me of that in my Valentines box, with a heart shaped sucker attached.

In fourth grade, the bullying became more physical. I had rocks thrown at me when I was swinging. Or kids would spit at me when I walked past.

I think about how childish this all was now and it is almost too embarrassing to write about. But it created deep and lasting scars on my heart.

For most of my adult life, I carried that hurt and anger with me. In college I ran into one of the individuals who was involved in the torture, more on the periphery, and let her have it. I thought letting someone know about how it had hurt would help. It didn’t.

So, one day I resolved to stop thinking about it. I allowed myself to move on.

Was that forgiveness? Yes. I still hate everyone in that school who made me believe that I was worthless. But I do not allow that to consume me, to define who I am any longer.

But on the flip side of things, I am grateful for the bullying. If I had not experienced that adversity and learned how to use that anger and frustration constructively, I never would have made straight A’s. I had to show those people that no matter how little they made me feel, I still counted for something. I couldn’t dress fancy. Or have expensive toys. But I could, by golly, score higher than all of them on my tests. So I did.

Those grades, and the drive, got me to medical school. Which then allowed me to travel the world, seeing and experiencing things I had never thought possible.

I think now about my kids and whether or not I want them to experience the pain I did. The answer is, I don’t. But I do have the peace that if they do, maybe I can help them understand how to turn it into something extraordinary.

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13 thoughts on “On Bullying

  1. Thank you so much for this powerful post. I’ve been bullied myself and it still affects me years later – I sometimes felt like giving up, but in the end, I realised it was all about themselves. I was always focussing on getting on and I realised that others envied me because of this strength. Also, I’m loved. And I can’t hate people who are not.
    I learned to appreciate even the smallest gesture of regard and share some little moments of kindness.

    That’s why I’m intending to write a newspaper article about sincere complimenting and its beautiful effects when people actually mean what they say. I try to collect compliments, so if you want to take part – just submit a compliment you recently paid or received by commenting on this post: http://nothingofthekind.wordpress.com/2014/03/07/my-best-compliments/.
    Because love can be shared as well.

    Like

  2. I’m writing a novel about bullying. I have many mixed and diverse feelings with regads to the response to bullying. From forgiveness, to moving on, to making peace with it, and sudden explosive violence, and elaborate revenge plots. Writing about this topic is a great way to explore all these options. For me personally, I rarely forgive, and never forget, but surprisingly I’m a very happy person. You experience sounds terrible and I was getting angry just reading about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Victo, that is one of the worst bullying experiences I have ever heard or read of. I don’t understand where you got the strength to rise above it unless there was some adult in your life who cared about you. I have not read all of your posts, but understand that this would not have been your father. Was it your mother? Another relative? A friend’s parent? Or are you a miracle child who somehow had the resources within herself?

    You are amazing, no matter what. I feel ashamed. I was not bullied at school. I received straight As. I achieved little, other than a white collar nerd career. You have given so much, and continue to do so. You are a wonderful, impressive person, and it is an honor to “know” you, no matter how distantly, via your blog, and mutual admiration of Scorch.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You may not have been bullied as a kid but you have survived some extraordinarily painful things yourself and risen above them as a survivor and a fantastic blogger. I can’t think of anyone in particular during that time that helped me. I told my mother what was going on but I don’t think she really wanted to understand how awful it was for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Parents then were conditioned to ignore the lives of children in ways that seem astonishing to us today. She may have thought it would blow over, or she may have thought it wouldn’t, but had no idea of how to combat it whatsoever—she could have been at the receiving end of some awful treatment herself from other women back then, due to your father–hard to say. She could have tortured herself with guilt for not being able to help, but lied to herself that it would soon blow over, and thus “Why worry?”. For this is what people used to believe about bullying.

        My question meant not “Did an adult help you with the bullying?”, but “Did you have an adult you felt cared about you?” Someone you felt comfortable with? Someone who did things that felt you were loved, or at least liked?

        Was your mother this person? For this type of anchor seems to be the difference, in most cases, between those who are able to rise above bullying or abuse and those who are less able to.

        Liked by 1 person

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