If you’ve been bullied, you know all about pain. The pain can be physical, mental or emotional, or all three.
Research has shown that most kids bully other kids as a result of insecurity. Both kids and adults who bully tend to be selective in their target practice: they like to pick on anyone who is different, the loner and the geek, the beautiful and the unattractive, the gay or the straight person, the obese and the disabled.
Those who get shoved around, ridiculed and humiliated, punched in the face or kicked in the shin have several choices to make: they can accept the torture, they can fight back, they can tell a teacher or parent or close friend, or they can try sprinting away from the attackers.
Bullying does not stop after a kid settles into adulthood.
Supervisors and employees act like spoiled or envious brats, and with puffed chests and sneers, they almost always seem to enjoy flaunting their bullying behavior in front of an audience. Parents, as well, can bully their children and spouses at home and in public.
Except for counselors, social workers, worried parents and concerned others, no one really understands the bully. The bully has his or her demons, too. A bully’s life may not be all that kind. Bullies may not know how to deal or cope with their problems, much less how to avoid disaster in the first place.
Numerous accounts of bullying have been recorded in the news and it appears as if the bullies might be getting the upper hand in some situations. Cyberbullying is just as harmful as being struck down hard by someone who has his or her own personal issues, experienced abuse, hatred or humilation. It’s not easy being bullied and being the bully.
Too many young men and women, and those older have ended up taking their own lives as a result of being bullied and because no one took action to stop the bullying.
While talking about this issue is helpful individually or in a group, it is also very helpful and encouraging for people of all ages to read about what different authors had to endure during their early years of being traumatized, hated, envied, scorned, mocked and Lord knows what other punishment was handed out to them. What is more valuable and definitely life-saving is reading about how these authors survived being pushed around and pursued relentlessly by their tormentors.
Perhaps a child, teen, college student, professional, mother or father will see themselves in the words that have haunted, almost destroyed and saved the lives of familiar writers in “Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories,” edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones.
These authors—including Linda Gerber (“An Innocent Bully”); Laurie Faria Stolarz (“Dear Bully”); R. L. Stine (“The Funny Guy”); Eric Luper (“The Day I Followed”); Ellen Hopkins (“Why Do We Celebrate Bullying?”) and Lauren Oliver (“Objects in Mirror Are More Complex Than They Appear”)—do not waste any time in gaining the reader’s sympathy, anger,
pity or guilt. Hall’s “Break My Heart” is compelling, with a dual-meaning that is bound to bring one to tears. She writes of her middle school years, feeling safe, keeping to herself, trying to not stand out so she will not become a victim to some of the meanest girls on earth, or, at least, in her former school.
Moving on to high school, she found ‘love’ along with getting hit smack in the face (or behind her back) with rumors that were poisonous darts that penetrated her heart.
She was betrayed by her friends.
“Isolation. People talking about me,” Hall writes. “I could not control what they said. Lies, rumors, God knows what else. Never wanted to be that girl. The one people whispered about. The one who got people’s attention for all the wrong reasons. Just because I didn’t look like an innocent blond-haired, blue-eyed baby-faced girl didn’t mean that I had done anything wrong….”
It got worse.
“Rumors spread like wildfire,” Hall writes. After 15 years, the author states that her heart started to mend, “still sore, but healing.” So, after 15 years later, what could happen next?
“My aortic arch and carotid arteries are causing strokes,” she states. “I’m sliced down the middle so that they can fix the heart—the one that felt like it had been broken so many times really was in need of mending. The scar is huge, red, and angry; one you can see. This is a scar of survival.”
Now Hall has a daughter. She knows what girls are capable of. She cringes.
She can’t have her heart broken again, or worse, “watch as hers is broken.”
Perhaps some people will be taken slightly off balance when they come to “The Funny Guy,” by R.L. Stine, who is truly ‘scary’ and very successful at scaring his readers. In elementary school, Stine says he was the class clown, “a funny guy” who thought he was a comedian and “loved jokes that were a little insulting: ‘Is that your face, or did you forget to take out the garbage?’ “Why don’t you turn your teeth around and bite yourself?’ Some kids laughed at my jokes. Some kids just thought I was weird.”
As it turned out, it was his own fear that brought fear to a trio of boyish bullies who thought they had Stine trapped for good in an old, abandoned house (supposedly haunted), with the dead guy still inside.
Stine’s quick thinking got him out of the black hole and into the safety of his own frightening world of spooky stories.
One has to feel sorry for a few of the authors who started out as bullies. One will stand up and cheer for those who ended up doing the right thing. There is and will always be a lot of peer pressure. Young people want friends, to be part of a group that share similar interests.
And, at the same time, it takes courage to be an individual. Many of these authors acknowledge that it is far more important to ‘be oneself’ rather than fall under the spell of a clique’s false promises, pretend friendships and potentially destructive behaviors.
Anyone who reads “Dear Bully…” is sure to find a writer who has made his or her contribution in assisting, through their own experiences, youth and adults in understanding why some people choose to bully rather than try to settle disputes in a more respectable, grownup and mature fashion. These authors are quite good at convincing us to be aware of everyone’s potential and feelings, and that includes both the bully and the one being bullied.
Carol Wright is a freelance writer and reside sin Winfield.