I had a personal bully for the bulk of my grade school experience. A small private school and last names starting with the same letter put us in close proximity of one another often. I was overweight, bashful, and wearing near coke bottle glasses (worn since 2nd grade) and hand-me-down clothes, all of which may have contributed to making me an easy target.
Which comes first – the bullying or the low self-esteem?
There were some pretty low moments for me and I hated strongly disliked the social aspect of much of my grade school experience until I transferred schools in 11th grade. In retrospect, I’m grateful to have had a circle of friends who truly liked me and, while bullied, it never included physical abuse like hitting or getting knocked down. In fact, the one time my bully’s friend wanted to fight me for flirting with her boyfriend (I had no idea HOW to flirt back then, so that was somewhat laughable), my bully was the one pulling her off me and convincing her not to throw a punch. So as miserable as I was, it could have been a whole lot worse. Only once, in 8th grade, do I remember mentioning the temptation of suicide to a friend and immediately knowing or saying that I could never go through with that. The desire was for the pain and loneliness to stop; but deep down I knew suicide wouldn’t solve the problem and would only make life so much harder for the people I loved.
I share all this because a film, Bully, is being released nationwide on March 30, 2012. It was shown in Columbia this past weekend at the True/False Film Festival, with packed houses at both venues. I wasn’t able to see it myself due to my volunteer schedule with the Fest, but anyone I spoke with who saw the film was deeply affected by it. Bullying is reaching crazy levels in both public & private schools across the country. School administrators struggle with how to respond. Sadly, more students are turning to suicide in an attempt to escape their daily or hourly tormentors. The directors of Bully are giving us a window seat to the abuse that many students face today from their peers.
If bullying doesn’t touch your child personally, then chances are it’s affecting one of their friends. We need to pray not only for the students who are being bullied, but for the teachers and administration, for the others students watching who must decide to act or turn away, for parents to be aware of what is happening with their children, and for the bullies themselves to find healthy ways to deal with their own pain and issues rather than take aggression out on other students.
In 8th grade, I met a girl named Tina. She was a year older than me and, defying all my junior high logic, asked me over to her house one afternoon. We just hung out, nothing special. In time we became best of friends. She helped me out of my shyness. She taught me to embrace my quirks and make them my strengths. I later found out that a Sunday School teacher asked her to reach out to me and help me feel welcomed. And until just this very moment, I never made the connection that it was the same year that I reached my low as mentioned earlier. Thank you, God, for bringing Tina into my life.
Will you do two things with me?
When it comes to your area, go see Bully.
And may we all seek to be a Tina and reach out to someone in our world – whether we are students or adults. To befriend that person who is on the fringes or who is being actively bullied. They need us to reach out.
Sometimes, their lives depend on it.