Monday, February 23, 2015


Do you think bullies know they were bullies? Not as they were doing it, but later in life, as adults, do you think they know they were considered a bully? Do you think they think about it at all? Feel guilt or shame about it?

This came up on one of my message boards in talking about Facebook. It's come up a few times actually but this last time got me really thinking about it.

The word bully also means something different to different people. So I pulled the definition from the dictionary-

Definition of BULLY

1. To inflict physical or emotional harm upon <children who had been bullied by their father since infancy
2. To make timid or fearful by or as if by threats <the older boys constantly bullied him to the point where he was afraid to walk home alone
So we were discussing people receiving friend requests on Facebook by others who these people would have considered bullies back in school. The bullied were angry that these people had the gall to send a friend request. The reoccurring question, angrily, was, "Why? Why would he/she send me a friend request? He/She was awful to me". 
I thought about it quickly. My answer was that maybe they're different now and didn't think of their behavior as bullying. I know, from experience, that bullying wasn't looked at with the same microscope as it is now. There was no internet with "It's Gets Better" messages. You didn't hear about suicides from being bullied. I know when I had a problem with two girls harassing me, the school did nothing. My guidance counselor changed my study hall and lunch time and room. I was told to just avoid them as best as I could. Yet, I was threatened with bodily harm. Now, if the same things occurred, it would be a whole scene. I was traumatized by this whole experience, enough that I can remember it like it was yesterday. Yet, I have a feeling that the people responsible never thought about it again. I don't know if that's because it was just business as usual for either one of them and I was one of many, or they just didn't think it was as big of a deal as I did. 
I also think as far as social media and Facebook goes, not all people use it alike. Some like to keep their page tight to the vest, and then there are people who pretty much accept anyone who hasn't proven to be a dick, yet. I would be the latter. There are people I have accepted who I wasn't bullied by, but who I wasn't really friends with in grade school. Acquaintances. There were people I have accepted that I didn't think were that nice, friendly or genuine back in the day but I accepted them. I didn't feel bullied by them- I just didn't think they were that nice. They hadn't done anything exceptionally awful to me and if they did, it was a short blip in a long history. I was curious at the request and didn't have strong enough feelings either way to decline their online friendship. There have been those who were of questionable character years ago, but have surprised me in the present. They're funny, intelligent, witty, and maybe we have a lot of the same political views.
At first when it was brought up in my message board, I said something about people changing and maybe they want to make amends. But at the time of this conversation, I forgot about the two who bullied me. If either of them requested me, what would I think? I do not hold grudges, but I wouldn't accept them. I still feel uneasy when I think about them and what happened to me. I don't care if they changed. Actually, I hope they did. Especially if they have kids. However, that doesn't mean I want to be friends or friendly with them. The way the whole scenario went down changed the course of a lot of things for me. It's definitely not an experience I look back with any fondness or the feeling like I had any kind of overreaction to still feel that uneasiness. I do wonder if their behavior from back then ever crosses their mind.
I was watching the Oscars last night and Graham Moore delivered a powerful speech. He spoke of being sixteen and trying to kill himself because he felt weird and different. The main point was to "Be weird. Stay weird. Things change and it will all be ok". As I was watching, I was thinking about whether the people that probably bothered him knew it was them that might have had a strong hand in pushing him toward suicide. I can think of a handful of kids that I can remember all their names that were treated terribly as kids, tweens, and teens. I can also remember who the ones were who did the lion's share of the harassment. I wonder if those who inflicted the pain ever regretted their actions, reached out to apologize, or teach their kids any different.
I don't have any answers. I didn't ask these questions or put this out there because I really have the answers. It was just an interesting conversation where I thought I'd feel one way, but then in everything coming back to me, I felt the same as the rest of the people who felt bullied at any time in their childhood. I certainly never even considered suicide so I guess in the scheme of things, my own situation wasn't nearly as awful as what happened to others. I think about having a child though, how hard tween and teen years are to navigate, add in social media, and cyber-bullying, and I'm afraid.
I don't want a kid who is the bully or the bullied. This subject is forever on my mind. I can teach my kid, but my fear is that if others don't know they were a bully, what are they doing proactively to make sure their kid isn't? Or if not proactively, what are they going to do and/or how are they going to feel if they get that call that their kid is the one leading the bullying?

Would you give someone a chance now, via social media, who you would've considered a bully back when you were a kid? Do you think they may have changed or didn't realize how they were back then?

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