Stevens: No one wins when there's a bully

tstevens@newsobserver.comNovember 11, 2013 

I remember being a bully.

And I remember being bullied.

Looking back, being a bully brings me more pain.

There is no excuse for some of the things I said and did growing up. Being young and stupid doesn’t seem like a valid excuse, but it is the only one that fits.

The situation with the Miami Dolphins’ Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin has shoved bullying and hazing into a well-deserved spotlight.

The N.C. High School Athletic Association has made bullying awareness a priority in recent years. Recognizing and preventing bullying is part of the coaching certification program new coaches must take to coach at NCHSAA schools.

But the Dolphins’ situation reminded me of when I picked on others. I regret it.

My senior year in high school I picked on a smaller boy. I was bigger and stronger. I never touched him, but I remember speaking harshly, making fun. It never crossed my mind that I was being a bully, which is probably true of most bullies.

At the time, I thought of it as just “funning him.” I didn’t consider that I was trying to build myself up by tearing him down. I was being thoughtless because I could.

It ended the day he said it was over. He wouldn’t take it anymore. He told me to quit picking on him. The shame I felt sickened me. It was as if the Biblical Nathan had pointed at me and said, “You are the man.” There was no defense. Just remorse.

Another time was worse. A girl had dropped out of school but returned to school the next year. One of my friends liked her and spent time with her. I gave him a nickname that was a play on words including her name.

Indirectly, we were bullying her. She quit school again. This time permanently.

The hurt from what I did supposedly in fun creeps into my thoughts occasionally as I wonder what became of that young girl who was trying to make a new start.

Those incidents probably hurt more than the time the bigger boys literally spit on me.

I was a bad baseball player and was unwanted on the team. A bigger boy, a friend of the coach’s son, came to me at practice one day and made nasal noises and pretended to spit ... I thought.

It was only when I felt the spittle sliding down my neck that I realized he was really spitting. He spit on me because I wasn’t a good player. The older boys, including the coach’s son, laughed and they spit, too.

Those Little League days were half a century ago and I still remember the shame, embarrassment and helplessness.

But those emotions don’t compare to the remorse I feel for having been a bully.

The boys that picked on me were ignorant, perhaps mean-spirited, but surely ignorant.

Just like me. And just like many bullies.

I wish there had been a coach or teacher or a friend to tell me that I was being a bully and to behave.

And I wish there had been a coach, or a parent, or a friend to have saved me that day at baseball practice.

No one wins when there is a bully.

Stevens: 919-829-8910

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