What About the Bully?


Tyler’s Story

Tyler was in the fifth grade. He was a good natured kid; He was polite; He was kind; He never did anyone any harm; Tyler had one problem though – He was shy. That made him an easy target. One day, in the dead of winter, he was riding the school bus home when he started to be picked on by the kid sitting behind him. He was being teased. He didn’t respond to the teasing. Instead he shrunk down in his seat and tried to ignore what was said. Not getting a reaction out of him, the bully pulled the stocking cap off Tyler’s head and tossed it forward in the bus. Another kid, who immediately morphed into a bully, grabbed the cap and tossed it to someone else. Tyler was moving around the bus trying to get his cap, which was being volleyed back and forth over his head. Tyler was back in his seat when the cap was tossed back to the bully behind him who started it all. The stocking cap was ripped apart and pulled down on Tyler’s head. Tyler’s face turned beet red and when the bus reached his stop he jumped out and ran home.

Joseph’s Story

Joseph was in the 10th grade. That year he had to do something that’s difficult for any high school kid. In the middle of the school year he moved to a new community and a new school where he had no friends. He complained a lot and most of what he complained about were all the things that were wrong with his new community. He raved a lot about how much better it was where he used to live. One day a bully had enough. He didn’t care about how difficult of a time Joseph was going through. He didn’t like Joseph and that’s all that mattered. The bully was in Joseph’s gym class. While on the basketball court the bully started teasing him and making fun of him. Soon, other kids joined the bully in the “fun.”

Having grown tired of just calling Joseph names, the bully decided it was time to humiliate him. As they ran back and forth across the floor, the bully would stick his ass in Joseph’s direction and make diarrhea sounds while telling Joseph he was a pile of shit. Poor Joseph, who was making the best out of a bad situation became even more withdrawn.

Tyler’s bully and Joseph’s bully was the same person. That bully was me.


My days of bullying Tyler ended when his father pulled up to me as I was walking along the side of the road. He told me that destroying personal property was going too far. He threatened me to never have Tyler come home again crying because of my actions. I was ashamed. Humiliated actually. I never bothered Tyler again.

I received harsher treatment for making Joseph’s life hell. I had to deal with Coach Dale. He was an outstanding coach and all round good guy, but when he got wind of what I’d been to Joseph his demeanor changed. He called me back to his office and when I turned the corner into the locker room I felt his hands thrust against my chest causing my back and head to slam against the tile wall. I was disoriented and terrified as he continued to push me, tease me and call me names. The last thing he said to me as he was pushing me around was, “How’s it feel to be bullied? I used to like you, Bradley.” That cut like a knife. All the teachers loved me and now our highly respected coach was saying he didn’t? I was mortified. I was humiliated. I was ashamed.

Nowadays Coach Dale’s actions would probably land him in jail, but it was exactly what I needed at the time. After that, Joseph and I weren’t friends, but we traveled in the same social circles and never spoke about my bullying. Despite my shame, I never had the balls to tell him I was sorry.

What About the Bully?

I have no excuse for my behavior. I’ve carried that shame for over thirty years. I would love to go to Tyler and tell him I’m sorry. I wish I could go to Joseph and make amends. I no longer remember what their real names are. I wouldn’t know where to begin. While I’m certain their memories of those days are engraved on their brain, would they really want it brought up after all this time?

Why did I act so dreadfully? Maybe it was from growing up in a volatile household that was verbally and emotionally abusive. Maybe it was from feeling less than from having spent so many recesses with no one to play with. Maybe it was my fear of being around other boys because they might hurt me. I’d guess it’s all the above and more.

I make no excuses. There are none. While I will always feel shame and humiliation for my actions, I know that Tyler’s and Joseph’s are likely far worse. I do think it’s important, however, that we look into the reasons why I, and other bullies, act the way they do. Other than those two instances, I’ve been considered an all-round good guy. So what happened and why?

I found lots of information on bullying as I Googled across the web, but found very little specifically about the bullies and what makes them bullies. I found some, but not much. Maybe there’s more out there, but I gave up searching. Maybe some of you teachers can shed some light.

I believe all the bullying campaigns do make a difference, but I don’t think we’ll make a dent in the problem until we start looking deeper into the reasons one becomes a bully. What kind of anger and self loathing occurs to make someone act that way? I wonder if other bullies experience the same remorse that I do, and if not, then why?

To find out more about bullying, the government website, stopbullying.gov is a good place to start.

What was your experience growing up? Were you bullied? Were you a bully?

22 comments on What About the Bully?

  1. I was bullied some in 6th grade by a boy and a girl. The boy socked me hard in the eye on the bus for no reason. The girl, who I located on Facebook out of boredom one day, yelled at me and intmidated me and threatened to beat me up. Why? No reason.

    I wasn’t a sweet angel, surprise, surprise! As far as bullying went, I made a mistake. ONE mistake. In elementary school I participated, along with a couple other girls, in something bad. We made up a song about another girl and we sang it to her after school. The ditty was verbally abusive, & although it may sound tame in writing, what we did was so totally f*cked up – I regret taking part in that to this day. I even considered making amends to her last year (I found her on Facebook – I remembered her name), but I chickened out.

    Anyway, as for you, my dear, I’m SOOOO sorry about what you went through being “on the other side” of the bullying coin – it all comes down to mutual suffering and pain. You learrned from the entire horrendous experience, and that’s what counts. The Coach Dale story? WOW. God, how awful….how terribly awful to have that happen, Bradley. But I’m relieved you understood what he was doing and that you feel it was what you needed back then.

    What’s on my mind now is my sweet, sensitive, brand-new 6th grader Avi. She has been bullied by a very troubled girl for some time now – I’ll call her B. B. needs serious counseling which should have begun at least two years ago. I’ve wrote about this stuff once or twice; my daughter dropped out of a theater program due to B. being in it and carrying on with her behavior under the radar. After I contacted the exec. director confidentially, a crazy, unethical shitstorm took place that had dire consequences. I still can’t believe what happened…..if I didn’t have a book deadline coming up, I would’ve considered taking legal action – what happened was ludicrous.

    We’ve spoken with B’s parents numerous times, but they were passive, and they’ve done virtually nothing to improve the situation. The mom even admitted to us that she dropped the ball on dealing with B., yet she found the time to go to Van Morrison (twice) and Bob Dylan concerts over the summer, instead of getting her kid help. Sorry I’m so angry, but I can’t help it.

    If the girl continues to bully Avi this school year, I’m meeting with the principal and I’ll basically become a version of my Mom, who has undiagnosed borderline. Sadly, I’ve observed Mom over 4 decades and found that her getting angry has gotten the most *action* from others – if I’m meek, sweet Dyane I get ignored. I didn’t win the starring role of my 6th grade play, Kate from Taming of the Shrew (produced by a professional L.A. theater troupe) for being sweet Dyane. I won it after auditioning as “angry Kate” and frankly, I blew the panel away with my mini-Joan-Crawford performance! This was 27 years before postpartum bipolar disorder was triggered…

    My Mom even pretends she’s an angry doctor and people ***believe*** her (I told you she won awards for acting, right?) and they treat her very well, and she —always—get the resolution she wants. I won’t go that far. But I won’t let this cycle of B’s cruel behavior continue.

    Ah, Bradley.
    I need a massage and facial!!!!!!
    Thanks as usual for letting me vent…..


    1. As awful as the Coach Dale incident goes, it does seem harsh, but it was necessary. He always liked me and I think he may have handled it differently with someone he didn’t like or care about. I believe it was the best way that he knew how to handle the situation. Our relationship survived the incident. In fact, even though I now live 3,000 miles away, and I haven’t seen him in about 30 years, my friends tell me he periodically asks how I’m doing when he bumps into them.
      I’m sorry B is being bullied. It’s hard to imagine what to do about it when a parent just shrugs their shoulders. Sounds to me like going to the principal is your best option. I know it must break your heart to see her going through this.

      1. That’s great that your relationship made it through that incident, and that he still thinks of you!

        Your post inspired me to be proactive, and after I wrote my “post” here, I called my daughter’s school to find out more info. about their bullying procedures. (They have a handbook, but I wanted to speak to a real person!) I spoke to someone in the office who was really helpful. :)))) Thanks for the motivation, my friend!

        1. I may have given you the motivation, but you’re the one who took action. Good for you

  2. This is great- being able to share every aspect -good and bad! There are reasons we do things and communication is key to resolving issues. It is not as clear cut as there are only Heroes and Villains – there are many grey areas to. Great post, Bradley 🙂

    1. Thank you, Daisy. You’re right. Life isn’t Star Wars. It’s not black and white. There are many, many shades of grey

  3. I really like this post. Who are we in these moments? Oh my, it takes courage to look back and see ourselves clearly. And then again to share them. I have a collection of memories of times when I did/said mean things, knowing they would hurt others. And even more times when I didn’t stand up for people, totally conscious that what was happening was wrong. Not sure if I have fewer of these moments, but hope that I’m evolving forward…

    1. Wow. I never thought about those times we don’t stand up for people when we should. Those add up. Thank you for your comments, toward

  4. I think men and women have different experiences with bullying. I don’t recall seeing a lot of bullying when I was a kid, but as an adult, I’ve seen plenty of bullying within relationships by men against women. And I experienced plenty of bullying while working for attorneys. I wonder, do men get bullied as much as women in the workplace?

    I just hope the bullying campaigns give people the incentive to speak up when they see it. Heck, we can’t even get people who witness a rape to speak up. To intervene. But I think things are changing…


    Now, I wouldn’t resort to violence like they did in this video — violence is painful. But I would take a photo of the bully/criminal and send it to the police, along with posting it on my blog. While I don’t believe in shame, I do believe in highlighting unacceptable behavior.

    1. When I was a kid I think girls were bullied less. Or, at least it may seem that way. Perhaps they were bullied primarily through speech, were as today they have gotten physical as well. It seems that way via the news and YouTube.

      As adults, bullying happens anywhere. I do think, as a rule, women are more likely to be bullied at work, but you never know. There’s a woman at my church who’s the biggest bully I’ve ever known. They’re everywhere it seems.

      1. Oh, it was physical back in the day, too. I was kicked in the ass while blindfolded, had rocks thrown at my head (three stitches), was tripped while playing kickball, and was chased around the playground with (what the kid said was) a hypodermic.

  5. I bullied a girl when I was in middle school. I think about it often and always with shame. I can’t give you anymore insight then you already have. I wish I could.

    Great post Bradley!

  6. It takes a strong person to admit this stuff, even so many years later. It’s an outer symptom of a lot of inner problems.

    1. Yes it is and I think it’s something we need to look at more seriously. Right now we’re putting all the weight on the victims

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