Failures of kindness

I was bullied in primary school by a boy who seemed to really enjoy controlling and humiliating people. I wonder now what his life might have been at home. Did he witness abuse? Was he abused? We find it difficult to believe that kids can be cruel for no particular reason.

A few years later, I turned into a bully myself. It happened one time and there was no physical abuse, just words.

“Just words” – how sadly ironic. I was deeply wounded by words so many times since then.

There was this girl in my class, very shy, always pulling down her blouse as if she needed to cover something shameful. Something invisible that could never be fully covered. She spoke with difficulty. When she did speak, she sounded like a girl much younger than her age. She was never at ease among us.

I don’t know how it came to be but I started making fun of her. Of her speech difficulties. Of her habit of pulling down her blouse. At some point, her mom came to the school and talked to me. She wasn’t aggressive. She asked me why I did it.

I don’t think I was doing very well at the time. I felt lonely, out of place, clumsy, inadequate. I felt unloved. I desperately wanted to be accepted.

I was probably scared too, because I couldn’t make sense of what was happening to me.

Every time I remember that girl, there’s a wave of shame and self-contempt washing over me. It seems inconceivable. I never saw myself as a jerk preying on people’s difficulties but for her I surely was one, back then.

Was it the same for my bully from primary school? Was he, above all else, a scared boy hiding from the monsters under his bed? It’s almost impossible to think about him that way, but I simply have to admit the possibility. No matter how outrageous it feels to compare myself with him, I have to at least envisage the possibility that I once was, in somebody’s eyes, exactly what he was for me.

There is something liberating in accepting this possibility. I doubt there can be self-forgiveness or acceptance as long as we remain in the cocoon of our own suffering, disconnected from the suffering of those who were hurt by us.

  1. Hi Florin, thank you for sharing this story I like your reflections, it touches me, wonder why…by admitting certain things to ourselves it is already half of the healing process at least the awareness helps us a lot, and as you said acceptance and forgiveness are great helpers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Teodora. Well, I was never that good at forgiving myself. One of the things I noticed is that I cannot move past guilt unless I recognize and accept what happened. There are so many mechanisms of self-deception and denial. I wouldn’t generalize, of course, but I think it happens the same for many others. Acceptance is not possible without awareness, and healing (whatever form it takes for each of us) is not possible without acceptance.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. This reminded me of an incident in middle school. The new arts teacher quit on our class on his first day after calling us inconsiderate middle class brats ( I attended a private German school inBrazil) . He had us in groups doing a puppets theater and three kids got consistently made fun of. He was horrified and quit, told the principal that were were little monsters. The principal punished us for quite a while, the school psychologist got involved, one by one we had to talk to her. These experiences of bullying and being bullied are universal and hurtful and are an unfortunate part of being a social animal. Monkeys do it too. The worst is, if you look at adults behaving in social media, some never grew out of it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Alessandra. Yes, bullying is part of growing up one way or another.
      I had a somehow similar experience involving some porn magazines that we (both boys and girls) swapped under the desks during classes. No psychologist was involved but we were extensively lectured. Back then I had the impression it’s a stupid adult overreaction. I still see it that way.
      I wanted to include in the post something on adult bullying but it seemed like a bit too much. Yes, many adults never grow out of it – on the contrary, they perfect it into a sort of art.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Because you mentioned it … I was lucky to not be harshly bullied as a child (maybe some silly pranks, but not damaging experiences); instead, I got bullied 5 years ago by a colleague; unimaginable, cruel, repetitive stuff she kept doing to me; something that not a social human being will ever choose to do; that behaviour made me sick for months; I knew since than that she had terrible frustrations and sufferings; that crazy behaviour came, indeed, as a consequence; it took me a few years to calm down; last year I felt forgiveness for her and those experiences seam to not be mine anymore; the healing of any kind is a miraculous process.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I was bullied at school. I understand now it’s because I was different. I spoke well compared to my classmates. Something my mother insisted was a good thing. I didnt see that then. I do now. Thankyou for sharing your insights.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I honestly don’t think we can project unlove if we really and truly love ourselves.. it takes courage and a lot of insight to admit our own self rejection or self hatred or to see when we cause pain out of pain… sadly our society is full of rejection and self rejection, I firmly believe it to be the root of all mental illness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. I find that many people who suffer are in denial about their situation and the way out of it, so they project their problems on the others. They are always angry about how the world treats them.

      Like

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