Joel Eisenberg asks: Ever bullied anyone? Ever regret it? Why’d you do it?
Yes. Yes I did. And yes, I do.
I was a dick in 8th and 9th grade, and badly (though only verbally) abused a few of my classmates, including one who I had been friends with only a few years earlier. Why? Because I got in with a few other kids who bullied them too, and hassling those classmates seemed like a fun thing to do. Also, some of the targets seemed so… pathetic in our eyes, as if they couldn’t help but be abused. In reality, we – their bullies – were despised by other kids but not as despised as our targets were, so we rolled that shit rolled downhill.
I started realizing how awful I was acting around grade 10, knocked that shit off, and distanced myself from most of those “friends.” Ironically, the tools that helped me see what I was doing, and to get a better group of friends, were heavy metal, D&D, and getting involved in the drama department – things that were soon (in two cases at least) scapegoated by adults as being the cause of teen violence and suicide.
This was over 40 years ago, and I still feel ashamed about what I did and how long I did it. I have since apologized to one of our targets, and have not seen the others since high school.
Knowing that I was the perpetrator of social abuse, and realizing that my own angry misery inspired my abuse of others, has kept me at least striving to be more compassionate (not always patient or tactful but compassionate) to the stuff other people are going through.
And because the memory of my behavior back then still leaves such an awful taste in my mouth, I have zero tolerance for such behavior now – most especially when the abuse comes from people we consider to be adults. One of the reasons I can be such a sanctimonious ass sometimes is because I’m still angry at the kid I was back then and the cruel shit he sometimes did.
My then-friends and I were children – angry children sorting out our shit in the only way we knew how. Seeing older and theoretically more mature people continuing such behavior fills me with disgust… a disgust inspired in part because I recognize the harm I inflicted too.