October 21, 2015
Dear Carolyn: I got a kick out of a former bully when she promoted an anti-bully item on Facebook. We’re not Facebook friends, but I was itching to remind her of things she did in 1993.
That inspired me to check up on my ex-bullies. In movies, the bullies always get their comeuppance before the credits roll. There’s a reason that’s such a common theme in fiction: It probably never happens in reality.
The worst bully was a boy who tormented me K-12. I have a scar from him. What happened to Eric? He’s happily married with children and making lots of money.
I never got an apology or acknowledgment of those 13 years of hell. No, he didn’t have a crush on me nor did he have a miserable home life. The bullies all came from nuclear families, had family at every event (unlike me), had nice cars and went on fancy trips (unlike me).
So let’s face it: The insecure-bully-comeuppance scenario has always been more wishful thinking. More people do terrible things and have zero concept of the impact of their behavior, and get away with it, than we realize.
There’s no hope for people like me, right? We’ll never get justice.
Dear Ex-Bullied: I hope you’re not waiting around for it — not because it’s never coming, but because it’s mostly out of your hands.
Plus, social-media images give a flawed picture at best.
Plus, think about the position such a quest puts you in: As you Googled these bullies, recall what you were thinking. Whether it was conscious or not, there was a voice in your head saying, “I hope these people all have crappy lives after what they did to me.”
And how does that elevate you? How does that fulfill the promise of “people like me”? Did your soul finish this exercise atop a podium, bowing gently to receive its medal?
You left out part of that idyllic script: the part where our hero’s views are broadened into a greater realm of compassion.
Maybe it’s too much to ask of anyone to wish the good life on a 13-year tormenter. But many do in real life get to the point where they can internalize the youth of the offender, the complexity of pressures on people, and the simple fact that unkindness is always too tempting for some to resist — and, from that point, release their tormentors into the ether with a choice not to wish ill of any of them.
Not for the bullies’ sakes, but for their own.
Your anger cries out for this healing. Your Eric got that way by failing to respect your and others’ humanity; don’t compound the damage by leaving your own humanity unattended. There are good people and mean ones, and many who feel the dark pull while trying to stay in the light.
Where justice is elusive, your own worth waits patiently for your attention. Releasing your grip on each of these people, by name and by choice, is, to my mind, a mortal’s stepstool to grace.
Could you forgive an ex-bully?