No matter what happens, keep your integrity
A few years ago, my family moved, putting me in a public school on the other side of the country. I was shy, studious, and an introvert. In a small world where everybody around me was already interconnected and well-acquainted with others, I couldn’t make an impression – and made no attempt to.
Still, one person had to pound the nail that tried its best not to stick out. He was a tough, brash jokester who acted like he owned the classroom and, worse, nobody seemed to dislike him, or at least not as intensely as I did. He would shove me around in the middle of class – his bullying was deliberate and out in the open. Teachers would give him suspensions and stern talking-tos, but they never changed his attitude. I told my parents and I told the principal, but no matter how long a detention he was given, nothing could put my mind at ease.
I didn’t want to see him in the same class as me, or the same school, or the same country. And if I had to see him, I wanted to see him bleed.
And that’s when I lost it. One morning, I took my dad’s Swiss army knife from the drawer, determined to strike some fear into his heart. Then in the science room, the very same place where he had pushed my desk over just a month before — there, in the arm…
I don’t think I expected the fight to last as long as it did, or cause as much damage. My memory is hazy, but my classmates could recount it verbatim, and I remember that by the end of it I was lying on the cold tiled floor, his fists directly above me, both in cold blood.
I ended up hospitalizing both the bully and myself. I didn’t care about the scarring I had caused my own body, as long as somehow my actions had hammered the message through his thick stupid skull that I do not deserve to be bullied. Nobody does.
Nor had I expected the mix of emotions my mother must have felt when they heard I was scarred for life; not only that, but their child wouldn’t be graduating that year. Disappointment, some of it stern, but also the profound thought that their child may not have been as well-mannered as they had thought, and had such potential to harm others. Their tearful glares looking at me from the far side of the bed may have been more painful than the actual beating.
As I saw them, I realized that I’d never stopped to consider if maybe the emotions on the faces of the bully’s parents were something like theirs. Even if they weren’t – even if he had that old ‘crappy home life’ excuse for doing what he did – they had to have been human.
A lot of people will have you think that the reason you shouldn’t stoop to a bully’s low is that you’re better than them. That’s true, in a sense. But if you think of a bully as the lowest form of life to walk the earth, some animal whose family somehow puts up with it, you’ll miss the bigger picture. And if you continue to pound this image of them into your mind, you might fall down to that exact same level, and become just as much a beast. That’s the moment you lose your integrity. That’s when you attack viciously, forgetting that you wanted only self-defense. So stay true to that original self, and don’t lose sight of what makes you someone to protect, not someone to report.