We all like to think the best of ourselves and imagine how we would totally stand up to a bully bullying someone we know or, even better, someone we don’t know. That’s an ugly little lie for most of us, isn’t it? We don’t like to think that we were bullies. Us. I mean, I was bullied, so why would I ever bully someone else?
Unless we didn’t realize we were the bully, and that’s my shameful admission. I, Renee Wittman, bullied one of my high school classmates and didn’t realize I had until almost 10 years later!
“How is that possible?” you may ask. “How oblivious would you have to be to not notice? Or how deluded?”
I’ll be straight with you. I had no malice towards her and wasn’t aiming to hurt when I teased her. I didn’t treat her differently than I did my friends. My friends and I, we continuously gave each other grief and laughed about it, tried to prank each other, and took turns as the butt of jokes.
She may have laughed, but I now realize she didn’t find it funny. She asked us to stop, but I ignored her and brushed it off. She laughed, so it was fine, right?
She meant it.
It wasn’t fine.
It was a cold shock when I was recounting a high school story to my husband, one among several in a series featuring various people, and I remembered her reaction.
And it read differently this time.
She may have laughed, but she didn’t think it was funny. She was laughing to hide hurt. I had this horrifying realization that I was a CLASS A JERK.
I didn’t pick on her looks or her speech or really anything specific. I just played the same pranks on her that I did my friends. But she wasn’t a close friend. All she had with me were the jokes and none of the rapport I had with my friends. I was actively hurting her.
Now I wonder who else I wounded, which of my friends I might have actually hurt. Or my classmates.
There’s a lot of shame in this realization, decades too late to change anything.
Have you had any sudden revelations about your behavior when you were younger? Were you a bully? Bullied?