The term, “bullying”, wasn’t discussed openly years ago because of the stigma associated with being pushed around, and not able to protect oneself. However, as of late, bullying is now on the minds of many people, especially those with young children. Decades earlier than today when bullying was equated with just “boys being boys” and girls simply “spatting”, the notoriety of those acting out has elevated to a serious public issue that requires immediate and ongoing attention. No one in the era we live in today should be subjected to ridicule, physical or psychological abuse, or worse, death threats. The sad reality is the jeering and name calling has taken a back seat to threats on social media, compounding the problem. Whether the threats are race related or simply just a dislike for one another, the problem is exacerbated by others telling others and subsequently ganging up on a particular individual. The outcome is seldom peaceful and the effects can last a lifetime. Presented here are two stories of bullying. These are true and factual stories that undoubtedly left emotional scars on the individuals involved, but fortunately they have adjusted well, but their respective memories of those sad days still haunt them. The positive side of these encounters served each of these persons to understand the true nature of the effects of bullying.
Growing up in a family of four siblings, Tom was the youngest and had the physical characteristics of his family. Slightly overweight, a pear shaped physique and little muscle tone. In addition, his two older brothers and sister did little to encourage him stand up for himself. To make matters worse, Tom’s family wasn’t supportive in the things Tom liked to do. Tom enjoyed playing ice hockey, football and baseball. He excelled in sports but rarely was congratulated for doing well. Instead, nothing was said. This seemed to stem from the fact that Tom was six years younger than his next older brother. Understandably, due to the age gap they didn’t relate well and this began to have an effect on him. He became withdrawn and kept to himself most of the time.
An easy target
It wasn’t until Tom was around 10 years old when the shoving and taunting began. His older brother was the instigator at school and at home. He and his friends would regularly target Tom in the hallways of the school and forcefully push him into the lockers lined up along the hallways, causing his books to fly out of his arms and usually causing marks on his body from the jagged lockers. Of course, the laughing, jeering and name calling made everything worse, but all this coming from someone he wanted to look up to was just too much.
Tom began to wonder why all this was happening, especially in front of his friends and his brother’s friends. It was embarrassing and humiliating and at times almost too much to bear. Some would say this was all part of growing up with older brothers, and in some cases this might actually be true. It was the lack of a support system within the family that kept the cycle in motion for years. Eventually, Tom’s brother graduated and moved away from home.
The healing begins
With his brother no longer around to continue the barrage of attacks, Tom started to feel better about his environment. He was getting physically and emotionally stronger by the day, but he never forgot the pain he suffered at the hands of his brother and his brother’s friends. This stayed with him for years but instead of this hindering his emotional growth, he gained confidence in himself because as he grew, other people around him did as well. They began to respect him for his sports prowess and were impressed by the toughness they witnessed in him during his early years.
As an adult, Tom has healed from the hard days of his younger years. He even has a relationship with his older brother, albeit a tepid one. The memories are ever present and in some ways, prevent him from having the kind of relationship he so desperately wanted as a youngster. However, they both understand and accept each other and never talk about the early days of growing up. Perhaps the missing piece in their relationship is Tom’s older brother still hasn’t acknowledged the hurt he imposed on him and is seemingly too embarrassed to discuss it.
This was more than just a story about bullying. It also cries out to the many other victims of senseless bullying that takes a toll on emotions and hinders proper growth into adulthood by stifling confidence and brings about a sense of distrust in others.
The next story is about a young man who happened to be very tall and out of proportion physically. He was 6’4” tall, very overweight and clumsy. At the tender age of thirteen he found it difficult to run, catch a ball or even bounce a basketball without looking totally out of sync. But, Terry had a big heart and outwardly appeared happy and content. This wasn’t the case on the inside, however. He loved sports and he knew he could be great someday because of his size and love of football and basketball. He felt if he could only get his chance maybe somebody would take him seriously. The monumental effort he displayed was to no avail. In fact, his efforts literally went unnoticed. Instead, he was laughed at any time he entered a classroom at school. Terry just laughed it off and went about with this day. Luckily, that response saved him from too much harassment while at school. It was after school when the real problems started.
He wouldn’t fight, regardless
Regardless of the taunting and name calling, Terry refused to involve himself in fighting or defending himself. The bullies around him were once afraid because of his size, but soon enough these agitators saw a way to hurt him. That was by ganging up on him and tackling him to the ground. They beat and kicked him. Still, he didn’t retaliate. Through his tears he screamed, “WHY?” Unfortunately, this only fueled the anger toward him and the beatings became more frequent and more violent. He often hid the cuts and bruises with long sleeve shirts and scarfs, which only drew more ire from the bullies. They were worried his marks were too obvious and might draw the attention of adults, who might learn their identities.
Eventually, the brutality of the beatings escalated to the point where the bullies would catch him alone in or around his school and attacked him again and again. This continued for several months and into the next school year until eventually they grew tired of beating him without any retaliation whatsoever.
Terry gets his answer
As in the previous story, the attacks stopped after Tom’s brother moved away, and in this story, the beatings stopped because the bullies grew bored and went on to look for other mischief. As it turns out, Tom and Terry were two very different individuals even though in their younger years they suffered similar circumstances. Terry’s physical dominance grew large in the eyes of his peers. His size alone commanded respect for him. Now standing at 6’6” and physically toned, he was still a gentle giant, so to speak. He was not, however, afraid anymore. Terry’s story doesn’t end with the bullies simply becoming bored and leaving him alone. He decided to pay his bullies a visit at their homes. He didn’t wait in hiding, nor did he announce his visit. One day, he visited the home of one of the bullies. To his surprise, nothing had changed. The name calling and threats were still directed at him but this time, inside the house of the bully with his father also taking part!
Terry approached the father and as he towered over him, spoke to him as if he was the father. He didn’t raise his voice or threaten him. He said, “Your son and his friends thought they could hurt me. They never did. I always felt sorry him and now I know my feelings were right. He never had a real father.”
Sadly, stories of bullying are common today because more attention is given to this problem by law enforcement and the media. On a brighter note, it’s because of the media and law enforcement speaking out that more people realize the effect bullying has on society as a whole.