From The Horse's Mouth

May 24, 2012
By Anonymous

If you looked at me now, you’d never expect that I was a bully. I never thought I was. I was a straight-A student, I had a loving family behind me, I went to Sunday School every week, and I was very stringent about following the rules. I didn’t have any of the warning signs associated with being a bully. I wasn’t fearless or impulsive; I didn’t have trouble paying attention or have violent outbursts. I had been taught that bully behaved like this because they had an unhappy family life, and were deeply troubled. I didn’t believe this, because in my head kids were mean because they wanted to be mean, but even if I did see any truth in this, I never would have thought it applied to me.

I don’t think they teach us enough about what a bully is. They focus on the victims and the bystanders, and quickly gloss over the attributes of a bully, but no one really tells it from the bullies perspective so that kids and adults can understand what leads a person to become a bully. I believe that maybe if I had known that what I was doing was wrong, and that I was in danger of becoming the very thing I hated, I might not have been like I was. Not everyone has enough ways out of being a victim to become a stronger and better person from it. Some of us have to fall before we learn to walk.

Now don’t think this is me romanticizing what it’s like to be a bully. I’ve said it when I mentored girls, and I’ll say it to anyone who asks: I was a horrible person. I cannot apologize enough for what I did. I can only hope that by hearing my story, people won’t fall into the same traps I do, and that adults may be aware that they need to intercede before this happens, and learn some of the tricks that bullies use. You need to stop us; we’re self-creating.

The first thing people need to learn is that every bully is a victim at one point of time. Whether it’s the victim of an abusive home life, the victim of self-image, or the victim of another bully, every bully starts out by feeling what the victim feels.

When I was in fourth grade we moved to a new neighborhood. On my first day of school, one girl reached out to me, and not knowing anything about anyone she quickly became my best friend. Two months into our friendship she pulled me aside before I could sit down at lunch. “No offense,” she said, “but we don’t really want you to sit with us anymore. We’re talking about some things that we don’t want you to hear.” Whenever the words, no offense are used, the comment that follows will generally cut pretty deep. This was no exception. I learned later that she had a reputation for dumping friends like this, and that nobody had told me. That’s the thing about bullies; we thrive off of others’ silence. A lack of communication is key to any successful bullying attempt. If no one steps up to help the victim, but warning them of a bully, or asking them if a rumor is true, then bullies can go on undetected for as long as it’s fun.

The new friends I made were no different. They let me hang around but there were times when they would tell me to, “Just go away for a little bit so we can talk about something.” I grew bitter and lonely, and started wearing darker clothes. I kept to myself mostly, and I hated going to school. Most days I would cry when I got home.

In 6th grade, I made new friends again. It was the first year of middle school, and there was a broader group of people. I was desperate to finally fit in, to be accepted. I was willing to do anything, and that’s when it changed. I quickly realized how easy it was to look good, by bringing down somebody else. That gossiping about someone, made others talk to you more. Many times my friends would start the initial attack, but I would join in and help it last as long as it could. One day at lunch, we decided that as a fun little experiment, we thought up a rumor about a girl we were angry at to see how fast is spread. By the time lunch was finished about half of our grade had heard it, and not one person thought to ask her if it was true. Bullies don’t do it alone, we would be nothing without the support of others. We’re not stupid either, we know what will hurt the most, who will spread what the fastest, and how often people don’t think of other’s feelings. There’s always a little bully inside everyone, eager to jump on the train because “Thank God, this isn’t about me.” This bully inside me grew, and the line between right and wrong blurred. It couldn’t be bullying because everyone was doing it, and this was just a part of middle school. Gossiping, backstabbing, starting rumors, excluding people were all normal things. It seems like middle school is strictly a time to judge your peers as either losers who deserve to be made fun of, bitches who deserve to be made miserable, and friends, who are probably doing this to you, so why not let this one secret slip. No one is safe.

I think, part of the reason I never realized I was a bully is because most of the time bullies were seen as going straight to the victim and hurting them, whether it was physically or teasing them to their face. Girls are bullies in fantastic ways. Rarely do we bully you to your face. We’ll tell your friends, we’ll tell our friends, and we’ll completely leave you out. It’s like a poison. You’d never know it was there until all the sudden everything is going black. I got bolder as my days went on, and sometimes I would attack a person over the phone or online directly to them. I would use my cruelest words, and generally have a friend or two to help me and back me up. I became a bully spreading machine and all in the name of being a good friend. Of staying a friend and not being somebody who was attacked again. I knew that some friends were still talking about me behind my back, but I talked about them so it didn’t matter.

There was one day that I went too far. I said absolutely horrible things about my best friend, and I soon found myself shut out. There’s a moment as a bully, when you hit rock bottom. Everything was stripped away from me. I had no more friends to help back up my attacks, I had no more information to use except for my own imagination, and no one wanted to hear it. I was cut off, and it was a blessing. If it hadn’t been for this, I might still be a bully.

So how can you stop us? Well, take away our numbers. Whether that’s by standing up to us directly, or not being another silent person who doesn’t ask the victim if a rumor is true or warn them about what’s being spread against them. If you are an adult and realize someone is being bullied, realize that it’s not against the rules to step in and talk to the bully, or offer the victim a safe haven. And above all else, be a friend. Don’t just sit there and not do anything or not spread anything. Make sure you go to the victims and just listen to them, be kind to them, do things with them. Bullies grow out of loneliness. That’s why we need our numbers, that’s why we put people down. If you can stop that loneliness from overtaking a person, you can stop bullying where it starts. If you are bully, or were a bully, don’t be afraid to apologize. It’s freeing.

The author's comments:
This is the unabridged version of an article I wrote for the Nick Kristof Bullying Contest. I wrote this on the fly as I remembered things, so it's very stream of thought.

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