In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, Natalie Whipple recently blogged about a hurtful incident from her childhood. It’s a brave, honest, and insightful post — as Natalie’s usually are — and I connected with it deeply. Unfortunately, what I identified with was not Natalie’s perspective, but that of her young bullies.
As I hope you all know, I’m generally a nice person, but when I was in second grade, I did a very not-nice thing. I told one of my best friends that I hated her.
Did I mean it? Of course not. Like I said, she was one of my best friends. So then why did I say such an awful thing? Honestly… it was a stupid 7-year-old whim. That’s it.
Upon seeing my friend crying, our teacher asked what was wrong. Upon learning what had happened, our teacher pulled me out of class. Upon realizing the hurt I’d caused, I said I was sorry.
Did I mean it? With all of my dumb, ashamed little heart.
My friend accepted my apology, but things were — understandably — never quite the same between us. Over the next few years we drifted, but I’m happy to say that she became a stronger person, and she made new friends who were probably better to her than I had been. Meanwhile, I learned two really important things:
1. Be kind, because there are no do-overs in life.
2. Step in and speak up when you see someone hurting someone else.
I give our teacher a lot of credit for not blowing the incident off, for taking me aside to explain what I’d done wrong and how I could/should make it right. Maybe I would have apologized anyway; but maybe not. Too many times, we look the other way and hope for the best, but that won’t do a thing to help either the bullied or the bullies.