Spread <3, Not Hate is an event hosted my KC Neal and KM Parr. When I read about this event, I knew I had to take part and lend my voice to this serious issue. Thank you KC and KM for hosting this.
Kids can be cruel. That’s a fact. When they’re really young, they don’t know any better, and thankfully many kids grow out of it. Others are bullies whether they’re five, fifteen, or forty. Some people just take pleasure in making others miserable - belittling them, putting them down, calling them names, embarrassing them.
Then there are the victims of bullying. Some of them are able to rise above it - keep their heads held high, not retaliate, grow a thick skin. I’ve heard people say that being bullied turned them into who they are today. Some have gone on to help other people who have been bullied and become advocates for those without voices. Other people aren’t so lucky - the suicide rate in kids and teens that are bullied is astounding and heartbreaking. These kids feel like they have no way out, no one who understands or can help. But there is always hope and there is always help if you know where to look, and if you can find the strength to ask.
I’ve been lucky that my own personal experiences with bullying haven’t been earth shattering. I wouldn’t say I was necessarily bullied as a kid, but I was made fun of at times (I know by some people’s definition, that is bullying). I’ve always been chubby, and I had some crazy hairstyles (although who didn’t in the late 80s and early 90s?), and I’ve always been a bit eccentric with a wild imagination. The year my dad died (I was ten), there were times when I’d start crying for absolutely no reason, or little things would set me off, and that didn’t make me too popular. But that was also the year a girl I’d known all through school became my best friend, and has been with me through good and back ever since.
The sweet jock…?
In high school, I was basically invisible except to my small group of friends. There was part of me that expected to be bullied, and waited for it. I remember this one time, I think it was the beginning of grade 10 maybe, when the most popular guy in school (jock, ridiculously hot) was sitting behind me in English class on the first day of school, and he kept trying to get my attention. I pretended I didn’t hear him because I was sure he was going to say something mean or make fun of me. Finally, he tapped me on the shoulder and handed me my notebook that had slid out from the rack under my desk and onto the floor. That’s all he wanted, and he was so sweet about it. But that’s how insecure I was, and how worried I was about being made fun of. Turns out he was one of those rare popular guys who was nice to everyone and not just fellow jocks and cheerleaders. And he was always nice to me, which, even to this day I have to admit surprises me.
When she was good she was very good, but when she was bad…watch out!
The worst bullying I ever dealt with came from a source that was shocking - one of my closest friends. “E” and I had this incredibly volatile relationship. We loved each other fiercely, and were the greatest of friends, but always on her terms. We would have weekend sleepovers, have a great time, then come Monday morning she would ignore me at school. When she was angry about something she tended to take it out on me. Everything with her was a competition - she had to have more friends, she had to do everything before I did, have more than I did, go more places, you get the idea. She would talk about me constantly behind my back, but to my face, she’d be all buddy-buddy lovey dovey. She would call me her best friend, then give someone else a best friend necklace to hurt me. She would go places with other friends that she knew I wanted to go (concerts, movies, etc). I look back now, and I feel like a fool for ever being her friend. I realize now I was like a dog who’s abused by their master - they’re afraid of them, but they want so badly to be loved that even after they’re kicked, they go back for more.
The worst it ever got was in high school. Suddenly E had all these new friends and she was popular in a way she hadn’t been in elementary school. There were times when she made my life a living hell. At one point it got so bad I considered switching schools. When E got other people involved and they sent me a threatening letter, my mum took matters into her own hands and called E’s mom. The letter was so bad that my mum didn’t have to say a word about going to the principal, because E was going to school in the wrong district, and something like that letter would have gotten her kicked out, and her mother knew it.
Things got better after that…for me, anyway. E found other victims to make miserable. She was the queen of spreading nasty rumours. Years later, I learned some of the things she did to mutual friends that I’d had no idea about at the time, because I tried to stay under her radar after the letter incident. She let popularity go to her head, and apparently being cruel was cool.
Want to know the really funny thing, though? Somehow, E and I got past all the hurt and misery, and we’re still friends. We both grew up a lot, and I learned to be stronger and not let people take advantage of me or hurt me for sport. Whenever she reverted to her old ways, I walked away. We’ve gone months and sometimes even years without speaking, but in the end, we have a shared history. It wasn’t always good, but at this point, we’ve been friends for 23 years - you can’t just ignore that. Maybe the hell she put me through made me a stronger person. Of course I wish it didn’t happen, but at the same time, it taught me a lot.
Does that make me a sucker? Some people might say yes, but I don’t think so. I’m not perfect, and I haven’t always been nice to everyone. I’ve never done anything as horrible as the things that E did to me, but I chose to forgive her. Now that I’m an adult, I can choose to walk away. It’s harder when your whole universe revolves around school and there’s no getting away from it. E has changed a lot - I still catch glimpses of the old person once in awhile, but for the most part, she’s a very different person. I’d like to think she realized her faults and errors, and that she’s sorry for all the things she did to me. We don’t talk about it now because it’s in the past. We talk about the past a lot, but when we do, it’s about the hilarious things we’ve done, the crushes we had, the adventures we took, the inside jokes, etc. 23 years worth of memories, and we’re able to focus on the good, despite some rocky times.
Spread love, not hate
It’s just as easy to be nice as it is to mean, and it takes far less energy. My older nephew was bullied at his old school, but his new school has a zero tolerance policy, and talks about bullying openly. At his Christmas concert in December, we went back to his classroom and outside the door, there was a check list of what to do when you’re being bullied. I was really impressed. It’s not something that can be glossed over; it’s a very serious issue. We need to talk to our kids, and even as adults, some people need to learn kindness and compassion.
The internet is an amazing place that allows us to connect with people all over the globe, but it can also be a scary place full of flame wars, threats, and hurtful comments. I think everyone who spends a large amount of time online should have a place where they feel safe and comfortable. It’s not always easy, and for some people it seems impossible - the sad fact is, there are always going to jerks out there. But if we make an effort to spread love, maybe other people will, too. Be kind, be courteous, don’t engage people who are negative or hurtful. Choose to rise above it. It can be a choice.
Please, if you’re being bullied, find someone to talk to. Ask for help. Go to a teacher or a parent or a trusted friend. Remember that life gets better. Concentrate on that, and on the goodness, the happiness, the love in this world. You never know what great things are just around the corner.
Have you had personal experience with bullying? How did you handle it? Did it make you stronger? I'd love to hear your thoughts and stories.
Please take a moment to visit the original sign-up post for this event to see a Linky of all participants. For some reason, my blog goes all wonky when I post Linkys!