I have decided to come clean about something from my past, in honor of Anti-Bullying Month. We always hear stories about the victims but rarely from the bullies themselves. Well, I was a bully.
It all began in 6th grade. I had just started Middle School in a small North Carolina town when it was decided that Jill could no longer play with us. I don’t remember who said it first but it doesn’t matter because every girl in my class went along with this decision. Jill was innocent of any wrongdoing but we targeted her for a reason. The teachers LOVED Jill. She was well mannered, smart and she had a lovely singing voice. They constantly had Jill up in front of the student body, singing the National Anthem or holiday songs or anything else they could think of. This led to toxic levels of jealousy amongst the girls in my class, so we took it out on Jill. She had been our friend until this point, so you can imagine her shock when Jill was no longer allowed to play with us at recess or sit with us at lunch.
It makes me want to cry when I think about it now, but at the time I relished bullying Jill. I LOVED having someone to talk bad about and look down on. I don’t know if my own problems at home or blossoming hormones are to blame but my classmates enjoyed picking on Jill as much as I did. It continued that way for weeks until Margaret, the sweetest and most popular girl in my class, said it had to stop. She walked up to Jill on the playground and just like that, the Anti-Jill Campaign was over. I was so disappointed. My exact thoughts were, “Well, what are we going to do NOW?”
Oh, don’t worry. I got my payback. It came in the form of a 9th grade move to Georgia, where I was summarily dismissed for months. I skipped lunch daily because I didn’t want to sit alone or even worse, ask to sit with someone and be turned away. I finally made friends again and moved on with my life, and I didn’t think about Jill again until “bullying” became a buzz-word. When I started hearing reports about cyber-bullying or kids being targeted at school, I immediately thought of Jill and felt guilty.
I now have children of my own in Elementary School and we talk often about bullying and what it looks like. I tell my children how important it is to step up and speak out if they see anyone being bullied. I also told them about Jill and how we bullied her. I am not proud of what I did to Jill but it’s important for my daughters to know that we are ALL capable of making the wrong decisions. A bully can live inside of anyone, including US.
Simply put, there’s a choice to be made. Are you going to be The Good Guy or The Bad Guy?
We all hope that if put into that position we would make the right choice but sadly, sometimes the ugly side of human nature gets in the way.