So I told a less-than-glowing story about bullying earlier this week, and I hope it inspired someone to stand up for themselves. Likewise, I hope it caused a few bullies out there in the world to consider their past actions.
But today, let me share the story of one of my dearest friends – who, at one point, sometimes made me her target of ridicule. I wasn’t very nice to her, either. It took years and distance for us to see our differences and realize that we were both wrong, on some level or another.
When you read about the aftermath of bullying – some of it has been tragic, such as the suicide of Phoebe Prince or that of Jamey Rodemeyer (Yale University studies have found that victims of bullying are up to nine times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims) – you have to wonder if there is closure. There is, for some.
I had known her since the first grade and we didn’t treat each other very well. In the fifth grade, I had enough of her crap, and the crap of the three girls who always stood behind her when she approached me. I told her so. She slowly began to create distance from me after that, and we both gave each other a certain amount of respect – something you don’t see often among pre-teenagers or teenagers.
Then, in the ninth grade, she and her family moved across the country. And I was sad to see her go. Someone who I knew for nine years but whom I did not know well enough to call a friend at the time. Still, I would miss seeing her in the halls every day. She was one of a small (and getting-smaller) group of us who began elementary school together, and with whom I expected to graduate from high school.
Nearly 20 years later, here’s that Facebook thing again – we had enough mutual friends that she came up in the “friends you may know” category. That pesky Facebook …
I don’t remember who reached out to whom, but at first, I was conflicted about it. Still, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and told her, “Things weren’t the same at our school after you left, and I always wondered what you were doing.”
A funny thing happened. She admitted to me years later that she moved away and that she had found out who she really was. And she apologized to me. And I apologized to her. I told her, “I forgive you.” Because I did.
Today, I call the person who used to antagonize me “my friend.” I look forward to every email, text message and funny card I receive from her. In fact, she sent me an email this morning and I read it over coffee, wishing she and I (and her baby son and husband) could have coffee together soon. I am honored to be able to learn about her and to be able to share my life with her. She is an intelligent, caring, funny, inquisitive and loving mother, woman and friend.
From a TeenHelp.org forum, the honesty of a former bully:
I will not deny it – people have a right to know what I have done…how cruel I have been to someone who absolutely did not deserve this and how many times I have hurt him so deeply that he will possibly never fully get over it although I would now do anything for him he wants to make atonement – but I know even that will never be enough. I endlessly regret it now and I will for the rest of my life mourn it and feel absolutely sorry. I blame no-one who despises me because of what I have done or wishes that I will never again be happy in my life or that something really bad will happen to me. I cannot blame anyone because I actually despise and hate myself because of it.
There was NO reason, justification or excuse for bullying someone in the ways I did – there never is. All I can say is that I tried and am still trying so very hard to repair at least a part of the damage and suffering that I have caused.