I understand the damage bullying can do, and if you get the opportunity to confront a bully, either for yourself or for someone else, please step up. Throughout my childhood, I was tormented by a couple of neighbors—one in particular. I called him “Ferrous.” Nearly every day he would lie in wait for me on the four-block walk from my school to the relative safety of my house.
One of my survival techniques was to stay after school, sometimes till five in the evening. I would go from classroom to classroom and talk to the teachers. They all knew about the problem, but back then, nothing was done. My own mom called me a “wimp,” and sometimes if I was caught, the other neighborhood kids would join in.
Today, I see a strong case for child abuse and neglect. I also see and am pleased that these days much more is being done to eliminate bullying behavior in our schools and child abuse in our homes. But there is still an epidemic out there, and we haven’t quite done enough.
Protecting the victims is important. I also think it wise to learn to understand the bully and why they do what they do. A few years ago, I actually saw my protagonist and somehow got on his email list, and I confronted my bully decades later about his violent behavior toward me when I was just a child. Here is the response I got.
I am sorry for punching you. For threatening you with harm.
For teasing you horribly and for belittling you.
I was definitely feeling less than and needed to build myself up, and didn't know how to. So I would tear you down to build me up.
I truly am sorry for the way I treated you.
However, it was those actions that got me to where I am today.
It was those actions that brought me to alcohol and alcoholism and finally to AA.
God brought me to AA, so AA could bring me to a God of my own conception.
Today, I try to be a good man doing good things for others.
I don't lie today. I have no need to lie about anything. It doesn't help anyone.
Yes I was a liar, a bad man, a cheat, a bully, a thief, and many other nouns.
I should have made amends to you years ago, and I didn't.
I am sorry for the way I treated you when we were children.
I was wrong not to make direct amends to you years ago.
I have tried to make living amends to you over the years by being kind and friendly to you and keeping in touch through Facebook and emails.
I see that that was not the correct way to make amends.
I should have done this many years ago.
Barton, I am truly sorry for my actions and my inaction.
I will never be able to change the past; however, I can change today.
Today I am sorry for the harm I inflicted upon you.
Thank you for calling me out.
For the bully, it took AA to get to a place where he can now try to apologize for his past actions. His growth through a twelve-step program may have even saved his life, but what has he done with it?
For me, it was the act of getting the apology in writing that was empowering. The truth is out and even if I'm the only one who knows it, that's enough.
I still have childhood issues—and who doesn’t?—to which I’m sure he contributed, and I’m not letting these issues run me in any way. Knowing they are there and where they came from is a big help, and self-awareness can never be a bad thing.
As for the bully, I don’t wish him ill, he has little to lose, but he’s not getting invited to any parties. Live and let live is the way I am thinking. Perhaps the rest of the bullies out there need to see life that way too. In my case confronting my bully decades later was a very empowering experience, if you get the chance, take it.