“Why are you being mean to me?” A friend of mine’s first grade son marched up to the 4th grade bully ring leader and demanded an answer. He’d been bullied for days now.
“I don’t know your name,” she said.
He told her his name along with a reminder there was no need to call him mean names anymore. I listened as my friend shared her son’s recent experience with bullies. I remembered my own first grade experiences with bullies. My bullies were also in the fourth grade. They taunted me and pushed me around on the ½ mile walk home from school. (This was 30 years ago when kids walked on their own to and from the neighborhood school and the lack of adults was obvious.) I would run as fast as I could trying to get somewhere safe.
Several 4th grade boys caught me once in an entrance hall to a neighbor’s house; I hadn’t run fast enough. I couldn’t make them stop attacking me so I fought back. I went home that day with a bloodied lip and several chunks of hair missing. I was terrified to tell my mother what had happened, that, yet again, I had upset the precariously unstable balance of peace in the house.
My father’s fury was undeniable, it terrified me. He stormed back out of the house not bothering to put his coat on. When he returned an hour later he seemed less volatile. I don’t remember dinner that day, but I do remember being summoned by my father into the dining room. This was worse than being beaten by the bullies.
My father, reeking of diesel fumes and alcohol, ordered me to close my fist tight and punch him in the face. NO WAY! I won’t do it, it’s a trick. I froze in fear while my father yelled at me to hit him. I had seen what happened when someone started trouble with my father. He usually came home from the drunken bar brawls with no more than a few bruises, not always true for the other side. There was NO WAY I was going to raise a fist to that man.
The minutes passed; it was obvious I was not going to move. My father calmed, slurring a few words about how he was going to teach me to protect myself, to fight. He spent the next hour, longer than eternity to a scared seven year old, showing me how to punch, hit, scratch, kick—whatever I needed to do to protect myself. However poorly delivered, the message was…no one had the right to hurt me.
I learned to run faster, and fight back harder. Eventually my fighting skills sharpened and the bullies decided they would simply tease me.
Over the years, there always seemed to be a group of kids who found my presence so distasteful they spewed venomous words. Every recess, every lunch period was torture. I suffered in silence as not to spark my parents. I knew it was me, it had to be. I was reminded of this regularly at home.
If only I did better at ___________ (school, behaving, coloring in kindergarten) my father would not have ruined the ____________ (holiday, dinner, a party.) I was somehow broken, innately inadequate. My mere presence deserved to be punished.
Finally in 7th grade, the suffering overwhelmed me. The guilt of ruining my family’s life simply by my birth coupled with the incessant assault of classmates was more than I could bear. In a moment of utter desperation I begged God to let me cease to exist or to send me a solution. By turning my will and my life over the care of God I have been blessed by His mercy time and again.
I am no longer the insecure, fearful child who walked into people, walls, parked cars because I couldn’t lift my head up in case someone looked at me, saw my brokenness. I’ve since learned, God never wastes a hurt. Today, most of my difficult childhood experiences allow me to help someone in a similar situation, whether a mom with a child who is bullied or a dad trying to protect his daughter from the cutting words of a mother with eating disorders.
God is bringing me full circle and I am following His lead. What life experiences is God asking you to use? Will you follow His lead?
About Kate Powers: Published author, speaker and coach, Kate shares information, experience and useful tools to help women rethink their limiting beliefs, incorporate their values in all areas, reduce emotional baggage and move forward with confidence and knowing. Kate has been a passionate advocate for her clients for over 10 years and recently released her second book.
14 thoughts on “Beating the Bully”
Wow. This brought back vivid memories for me. I just wonder how many of us suffered for any amount of time during our adult lives due to bullying. Mine started in 7th grade when we moved to my new house. The boys next door were so much fun to pay with during the summer, but as soon as school started, that all changed. I was called names on the bus, at school, at church (and this was led by the boys next door), and I endured this for years. I had lived with the low self esteem and unworthiness until about 3 years ago. It is a horrible issue. I am so glad there is help and freedom though, from these negative mind tapes!
Yes Joyce, I dealt with bullies from first grade through 8th grade – it made each day a struggle but forced me to develop my faith, turn inward and has allowed me to grow in strength and God at a young age. Thank you for sharing here!
I love how you have escaped the negative mind tapes, and in later years too! I came to Christ late in life (35) and continued to battle those negative thoughts and emotions stirred by low self esteem. Thank God, through Him, we have the power to overcome. We CAN learn to think differently about things that have happened to us. And Kate, your story is a powerful example of that.
Thank you both for sharing. I truly love both of you!
When I was a little pre-schooler, I was sexually abused by a neighbor man. When I entered first grade, my teacher humiliated me daily in front of the class. When I entered high school, some ignorant boys teased and made fun of my name, calling out to me from their car as I walked to school. At that time, I was quite shy and did not fight back. I remember going to Sunday School and how nice my teachers were there. I really loved my Jesus. It was probably the only thing that “kept me going”. I don’t think I ever told my mother about the incidences, until much later in life. Perhaps it made me stronger in facing many hardships in life? I am now 81 yrs. of age, and God is still my strength! Praise His Name!!!
Ruth, what an amazing testimony!!! Thank you for sharing…praising His Name with you!
Your story warms my heart. I too was a victim of sexual abuse at a young age. And that messes you up for years! So very thankful that God has redeemed your pain and that are walking in his joy.
Thank you for sharing. Your story will touch many.
Wow, what a great story, Kate! I’m always amazed how God can turn our hurts and pains and mold great personalities who understand and help others. I was raised atheist and “found” God on my own – reading the Bible and asking thousand questions. Till this day I’m in love with Jesus. He was such a gentleman raising the broken ones, rebuking the prideful and I want to do the same throughout my own life.
Thank God you found Him, Silvia. Excites me that you asked those questions, that you sought for yourself in spite of your environment. You are an example to many.
Thank you for your heart to pour into the lives of others!
Silvia, what a beautiful testimony of the power of God. I agree, Jesus was an amazing man while on this earth. I love your description of him as a “gentleman” – he was!!! and he loved the women in his life in a true and pure way. I now know that HE is what a “good man” looks like 🙂
Kate: You always make me cry.. good cleansing tears. I love who you are! Thank you for this story.
Thank you Gail, Your beauty and love shine through!!!
Both hands raised on this one! I too experienced bullies when I was in middle school. Those days of being chase around the school we very scary and all because they didn’t like the fact I had long hair! Crazy! Really appreciate this story! It just goes to show how far God has brought me.
Beautifully shared, Kate! It made me ponder why I have not written more widely on the bullying I experienced throughout childhood. Might have to fix that. 🙂
Love you, my friend. (((HUG)))
Love this blog….I experience a bully while in high school…this made me realize that I may give people the benefit of the doubt TOO much because no one gave ME the benefit of the doubt during this time. Thanks!