The other day I received a message on Instagram from an old class mate. She said, “I’ve followed your posts and they are so inspirational and uplifting. But the little child in me remembers how you bullied me in primary school.”
Me – a bully?
It’s extremely difficult to accept it. But I do remember. Clearly. Every time I see a picture of this beautiful, gracious woman, I remember that I used to pull her long hair and make her kiss a boy with glasses. However much the thought nauseates me, I do know: I did that. I made someone suffer, and perhaps scarred her for life.
I’ve been contemplating whether or not to blog about this. After all, don’t we all want to appear perfect and kind? Especially my kind of people, who make their living by offering healing and readings, who write about spirituality. But then again, I do find it important to share.
Because none of us is perfect. And that’s OK.
The (online) conversation with this woman stirred up a lot of feelings. A lot of thoughts. What made me act like that toward her? How could I have been so insensitive and completely devoid of empathy?
As a grown up, I have often wondered what causes people to be cruel to others. How can they not empathize? But now I have to accept that I was like that too, when I was a child. Not for a long time, but at least until the age of 10 or 11.
The horrible insight I’ve had is: I did it because I could.
I was the youngest of three girls. I was the smallest, weakest, and never got to decide anything. And when I went to school, I guess it occurred to me that I could get others to do things because I wanted them to. I didn’t dislike this girl, I bullied her because I got drunk on the power. At least that’s what I assume.
If I could undo all the hurt I’ve caused, I would do it in a second. But I can’t.
I have to live with what I did. But my former classmate has already had to live with it for 40 years.
All I can say is that I’m happy I’m not like that any longer.
A couple of months ago a man called Brett Kavanaugh was accused of attempted rape of a woman at a party during his college years. He was drunk. He doesn’t remember. She remembers every detail. A friend of mine commented on the trial on Facebook and said, “She probably remembers the event, but how does she know it was him? It could have been someone else.” A typical man’s response, I said. And I couldn’t give him a better explanation at the time, because I was too upset.
But now I can say why.
The person who is attacked remembers everything. The attacker is just having fun. A laugh. Doesn’t always remember who or why.
I’ve never before thought of myself as a bully. I thought I teased this girl once or twice. But given she called me a bully, there must have been many more occasions that I don’t remember.
I believe in standing up and admitting our own faults, our mistakes.
I can never undo what I did as a child. But I can ask for forgiveness. I can tell her I’m sorry.
A few days ago we met up for a coffee. She said she has forgiven me and is happy we have talked. While I feel so extremely ashamed, I’m so relieved to see that her life turned out great. And I’m happy I got a chance to apologize.
Hopefully I’ve eased her pain and perhaps our talks can bring her some peace at long last.