Was I ever a bully?
People expect victims of bullying to become bullies themselves. Undoubtedly, I was a victim of bullying. Luckier than most, I know, because I had my family to run to; but a victim nonetheless. I can remember the insults, coming thick and fast right from Reception, my first year of school. “Loser.” “Geek.” “I suffer from HLphobia-the fear of unusuals and nerds!” “Wow, you saddo.” “You get your clothes from Oxfam! You get your clothes from Oxfam!”
Perhaps they don't sound so terrible on paper, but when you are eleven and your only friend announces in class that he suffers from “HLphobia”, then I can safely assure you that it does, in fact, feel as if your world has fallen apart. I hated the fact that people called me names. It almost came as a relief when Chloe beat me up. At least I knew how to deal with that.
I never even considered the possibility that I could be a bully. After all, I was such a wimp; I never stood up for myself. I remember retaliating to bullying only once, and that time it wasn't me who was being bullied. Perhaps it was seeing someone even more forlorn becoming the victim that prompted me to react the way I did. Perhaps it was the knowledge of how awful Lisa's home life was already, without the class bullies contributing. Perhaps. I never can remember exactly what happened. One minute the book was in my hand, and then next it was travelling at previously unprecedented speeds through the classroom towards Christine's face. It was the only time I ever stood up to her. I had never been in so much trouble.
Recently, however, God challenged me that I have been a bully throughout most of my life. Why? Simple.
I have a younger brother, Jon. Jonathan Geoffrey, the golden child. Athletic, academic, good-looking, sociable, popular, musical, artistic, Jonathan Geoffrey. He was always Mum's favourite, or so I have always perceived. In fact, when friend of the family Jessica, who is only a few months younger than me, used to visit, she would play with Jon instead of me. I was intensely jealous of him. I was nobody's favourite.
And, as I recently started to look back on my relationship with my brother, I noticed a reoccurring theme.
I had been bullying my little brother for most of my life.
Sure, it was well hidden. I had never realised that I was treating him so abominably. My relationship with him wasn't exactly something out of a shiny happy Walt Disney film, but I had always seen him as the guilty party, that it was somehow “his fault” because he was preferred to me. I had never realised that the instigator of the mutual bitterness between us was myself.
At a youth camp just a week ago, during the praise and worship session I glanced over to look at my brother. I would just like to state that I love my brother dearly. One of the things that has made me saddest in my life so far was his previous inability to live for Jesus. God had always been a taboo subject between the two of us, and during camps such as these, he used to sit at the back, hunched over, not looking anyone in the eye. This week, however, was different. As I looked at my brother, I saw him, hands held high, face turned to heaven, tears streaming down his face. My brother had just come face to face with God. And, as I observed him with a huge smile on my face, I heard a little voice in the back of my head.
“Oh, well, don't worry Jon, you wouldn't be expected to understand. It's all right.” “You'll understand when you're older. Maybe.” “Hey look! My IQ is higher than yours!” “Well maybe if you concentrated in class, you'd actually become vaguely intelligent!” “Yes, I am coming to your school next year. Deal with it.”
How many times had I played the one good quality that I felt I had; a quality that was, in fact, shared with my brother anyway; over him? How many times had I called him stupid? Never in those exact words, but a thousand times over with actions, with the tone of my voice, with patronisation, with the deliberate use of words I knew he would not understand. How many times had I shared something I had learnt at school that day with my family at the dinner table, knowing that Jon's creative mind would find it difficult to grasp the concept? All I had wanted was to be accepted. Maybe that was all those girls from my old school had wanted. Maybe I had turned into them.
As soon as the evening session was finished, I grabbed him on the way out of our meeting place. I apologised for treating him like dirt to make myself feel better, and he told me that he had been doing the same thing.
Perhaps for the first time in our lives, my brother and I forgave each other.
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