I want to talk about something serious, not just to many Scoliosis patients, but to many children, teens, and adults in this world – bullying. But, I’m going to bring a great big problem down and focus in on Scoliosis patients, because that tends to be my focus, but what I have to say will apply to everyone. The quote in the title of this article, by the way, is by Benjamin Disraeli and applies so well to what I have to share…
A while ago, a friend’s child was bullied at school – nothing new, just comments about her appearance. It brought me back to a long time ago – a former life, it seems, when I was bullied by some girls – pretty ruthlessly. I won’t go into all the details, but I will hone in on one particular day. I was 9, and the main “ringleaders” actually had a slumber party with the express purpose of torturing me (I didn’t know this, of course, until I went, but it did not take me long to find out. I think it was the second time I was left out of the “meeting of the bullying minds” with one of the other girls, that was not particularly pleased with the line of entertainment for the evening, when she let me in on the plan and fessed up to what they were plotting behind closed doors). What happened next, I will always remember and, actually, be grateful for. I called home to talk to my Mom and she gave me two choices – 1. She could come get me, rescue me, take me away from it. Or, 2. I could stay until morning. As a Mom, I am pretty sure I would launch into plan 1 pretty quickly, no questions asked. But, for some reason, my Mom had the wisdom to listen, but let me decide how much I actually needed her to rescue me. I am not sure why, or what possessed me, maybe it was just the confidence that my Mother thought I COULD stick it out – but, I decided to stay. I decided to ignore the haters, be as kind as I had been all along (in other words, not treat them as they had been treating me), and see what happened. What did I have to lose anyway?
By morning, most of the girls had come to realize something about me – they wanted my friendship, and were willing to sacrifice the friendship of the cruel “ringleaders” to get it. I didn’t let them change me or bring me down, and I did prevail. And, I proved to myself that my strength of character was greater than I had expected. Thanks, Mom.
Later in life, the “ringleaders” were on the opposite end of where I wanted to be (and was) in high school and beyond – their beauty had already deteriorated by poor choices (drugs, alcohol, etc). Their grades were poor, and I was so grateful that I was no longer in their circle of friends. I had surrounded myself with people like me, and people who helped improve me, not people who brought me down.
We have been so blessed that we live in a small community where, so far, my kids have not been bullied or teased or made fun of even once for wearing a brace or, in my daughter’s case, for having a hump on her back when out-of-brace. People where we live have seen enough hardship to know that we all have problems. We still have bullying, don’t get me wrong, but, so far, it has not been directed at MY kids. But, I have told them multiple times that they can absolutely expect for someone, at some point, to be cruel. It is the world we live in. It’s all about how we handle the cruelty that matters. We talk about bullying pro-actively, so they have a plan, a mindset, or place of comfort they can seek when it does occur. And, it will occur. I think it happens to everyone.
Growing up, I was a complete nerd. I am now proud of that fact – we are a family of nerds! In our house, nerd is a compliment. It means smart, witty (funny in a clever way, not a crude one), inventive, creative, original. Was I teased or excluded from certain things because of it? Absolutely. Would I have changed it? Not a bit. And, more importantly, would my character be what it is today without it? No.
My kids are very sensitive to kids that are hurting in their classes and other activities. Why? Because they have been different and hurting themselves. They are the first to talk to the girl nobody will talk to, or sit at lunch with the boy everyone teases. They may not like certain kids, but they would never be mean to them. I think that their Scoliosis challenges are a big part of what created this in their character – and, having a nerdy, formerly bullied Mom who won’t stand for it! 🙂 I am constantly telling them to try and always choose kindness.
If you are being bullied, for any reason, just know that you are never, ever alone. More people are in your shoes than the bully’s shoes. Seek out a parent, teacher, good friend, or Pastor to discuss your feelings. You can also always talk to God. (Or, if you feel truly alone, email me.) Make the choice to not let the bully take away what is great inside you – your individuality, your strength of character, your light. Ignore the negativity as best as you can and make the decision that you will prevail, because you absolutely have that power 100% inside of you. Bullying is just smoke – it will dissipate. But, you will build courage as a result, a raging fire, that will never go away.
I leave you with this one quote, that I found funny, but so true:
“What if the kid you bullied at school, grew up, and turned out to be the only surgeon who could save your life?”
― Lynette Mather, author.
Well, that would show them, wouldn’t it? 🙂
Blessings to all of you.