Bullying can come in many forms and for different reasons, but universally the bully will be picking on someone they consider to be vulnerable or weaker than themselves. They will be able to sniff out sensitive people whom they know will be unlikely to stand up to them or retaliate. They can smell fear and insecurity which they feed off like leeches.
However, these same parasitic individuals would not dare to step on the toes of someone they know to be strong or confident. This shows the bullies up to be cowards themselves, because they will only attack the weak.
That being said, I would not want any reader who is or has been bullied to think that I am saying they are weak. On the contrary, I consider a sensitive soul to be rare and valuable in our cold society. This is a gift and a quality that the bullies are unable to understand. They may well actually be envious. Sensitive people are like rare diamonds amongst the rough, roses amongst thorns. Some people may feel the need to try to tarnish and violate that beauty because it shows up their own ugliness.
Of course, I also recognise that often a bully may be from a difficult family background. Nobody knows what is going on in their own lives to create that inner anger. Sometimes bullying is a manifestation of how powerless and unhappy they are themselves. We never know what goes on in someone’s private life, and we should always remember that.
Having said that, I don’t excuse bullying under any circumstances. Plenty of people have difficult backgrounds and yet they do not go out and try to make other people’s lives a misery.
There is the question of whether children can know any better. I myself was bullied from the age of seven by two girls at school. It started with one of them befriending me and inviting me to tea at her house. She lived in an amazing big house, but having no understanding of how the world judges us by our wealth, I was really excited to show her around our little converted bungalow when she dropped me home. I remember feeling proud of our little house as I showed her around. I was utterly taken aback the following day when she was no longer nice to me and was laughing at how small my house was.
That was the beginning of a slippery slope for me which would continue throughout my life. The girl then teamed up with another girl with whom she would taunt and tease me on a daily basis. Sometimes they would play with me for a while, and then the two of them would go off and whisper before coming back with their arms around each other saying “we don’t like you”. Each morning they had a symbol to tell me whether they liked me that day – thumbs up = we like you today, thumbs down = we don’t like you, thumbs half way = you’re sort of ok today. I used to cry myself to sleep every night and yes I did tell my parents but they did nothing.
When I look back I wonder what was wrong with me. What was it that kept me hanging on their every word? What kept me running back when they decided to like me briefly? I should have told them to get lost. I should have had more self respect. But then I don’t think there were any other options of people to be friends with. Everyone at my school was pretty horrid.
These two girls affected my entire journey through school and to this day. I was at an age when you are trying to figure things out socially and find your place in it all. My confidence was so badly affected and my self worth. There have been many others over the years ago have deliberately preyed on my vulnerable nature and hurt me, but I always remember that first experience of repetitive rejection as the start of a trend.
I’ve often wondered about those two girls and whether they would be remorseful if they knew the affect they had on my entire life. I thought about what I would say and how they might respond.
And then.. a few weeks ago I joined my parents in church. Dad has health problems and is suddenly unable to drive, so I drove him and stayed for the mass. At the end of the service I sensed someone was looking at me from across the church, so I glanced across only to see one of those two girls glaring at me! Having not seen her for 20 years, having lived with the effects of her bullying, there she was in a church looking at me like she hated me.
Now to my mind, there is so much wrong with that picture. The whole concept of glaring at someone in a church is insane and indicates that she misses the point of being there at all. I never did anything to deserve her hatred, and the fact that she still holds onto her hate for me, all these years later even though she is married with children herself.. Frankly I find that sad. I cannot get my head around it, and I genuinely feel pity for her.
The odd thing for me is that it has brought it all back and made me face those demons, which feels strangely therapeutic. I have shocked myself by returning to the church each week since and feeling a sense of peace and of her being sad and insignificant in my life. When I go, I know she may be there or she may not, but it doesn’t matter either way. What can she do to me now?
I guess my question of whether she would be remorseful has been answered. I have heard of cases where the bully has been sorry years later. Bullying not only affects a person’s life during that time, it can have a profound ongoing effect.
On the one hand things have changed a lot since I was at school, as there are anti bullying campaigns with so much more publicity and support for the cause. On the other hand, bullies have more ways to reach their victim with online social media. Ironically, it is perhaps worse, because the bullies can even infiltrate your own home when you should be able to escape them for a while. I hope this can change, as I don’t know what I would have done without being able to escape school at 3pm each day.