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I Wish You'd Never Been Born!

I'll never forget the day that one of my siblings, in a moment of sheer frustration with me, shouted out the words, "I WISH YOU'D NEVER BEEN BORN!" and more important, how that made me feel. It literally seared my soul to the very core of my being. I was 13 at the time.

But don't think that I was any better. Oh no. Prior to that we had had many fights as siblings and I can assure you that I had likely taken my fair share of below-the-belt potshots, of which no doubt my sisters surely remember one or two -- at least.


And even though I know that these horrendous words were not intentionally meant to hurt me, certainly not in the way that they did, but were a way to be mean, in the moment, in the stupid way that kids behave at times -- they left a mark that affected my tender young spirit. The result of which left a scar, an indelible imprint -- a distorted and false message about my worth as a human being.

Why am I bringing this up now, today, these many years later? Well, earlier this morning I was reminded about the ongoing and increasing problem of bullying, and how words can really hurt individuals -- I mean really hurt, in ways that those who have not encountered a bully may not understand.

I myself have had a few encounters with bullies over the course of my life, at different ages, and sadly, on one occasion, was a conscious perpetrator. It's true.

When I was about 10, for some reason, and I honestly can't recall the circumstances surrounding the incident, but I told my other playmates on the playground to not like this one, short haired little girl. To this day, I can still remember her face, vividly. And to this day, that I did that to another human soul, haunts me terribly. Every single time I think about it, I am deeply ashamed of myself, and my eyes well up with tears of sadness for the little girl that I bullied on the playground -- and for the scar that I surely must have left upon her tender young heart.

Oh that I could go back in time and tell her how very sorry I am for being such a beast of a child!

I don't think that I would have ever had the courage to share my own pathetic story, if not for Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and his example of humility in sharing the following, touching account of how his own thoughtless actions may have affected someone else, causing him to feel the need to repent, too -- as related during a CES fireside, later reprinted in the April 1998 Ensign titled: Come Unto Me

In 1979 we held in St. George, Utah, our 20-year class reunion for Dixie High School. We had great high school years filled with state football and basketball championships and a host of other “hometown, USA” memories. An effort was made to find current addresses for the entire class and get everyone to the reunion. 
In the midst of all that fun, I remember the terribly painful letter written by one very bright—but, in her childhood, somewhat less popular—young woman who wrote something like this: 
“Congratulations to all of us for having survived long enough to have a 20-year class reunion. I hope everyone has a wonderful time. But don’t reserve a place for me. I have, in fact, spent most of those 20 years trying to forget the painful moments of our school days together. Now that I am nearly over those feelings of loneliness and shattered self-esteem, I cannot bring myself to see all of the class and run the risk of remembering all of that again. Have a good time and forgive me. It is my problem, not yours. Maybe I can come at the 30-year mark.” 
Which, I am very happy to report, she did. But she was terribly wrong about one thing—it was our problem, and we knew it. 
I have wept for her—my friend—and other friends like her in my youth for whom I and a lot of others obviously were not masters of “the healer’s art”. We simply were not the Savior’s agents or disciples that he intends people to be. I cannot help but wonder what I might have done to watch out a little more for the ones not included, to make sure the gesture of a friendly word or a listening ear or a little low-cost casual talk and shared time might have reached far enough to include those hanging on the outer edge of the social circle, and in some cases barely hanging on at all.

Now granted, I was only 10 at the time, and he a high school student, with likely little involvement among those whom the letter was directed. However, it's important to note that both of us were within the age range that most often is found the highest incidents of bullying, still today. And because bullying in the past was considered a mere playground hazard, many parents have a tendency to not take too seriously when their child is either accused of being a bully, or hear a report that they are being bullied -- a potentially grave mistake, according to recent reports.


What exactly constitutes bullying? According to the Center for Disease and Prevention:

"Bullying is when a person or group repeatedly tries to harm someone who is weaker or who they think is weaker. Sometimes it involves direct attacks such as hitting, name calling, teasing or taunting. Sometimes it is indirect, such as spreading rumors or trying to make others reject someone. 
Often people dismiss bullying among kids as a normal part of growing up. But bullying is harmful. It can lead children and teenagers to feel tense and afraid. It may lead them to avoid school. In severe cases, teens who are bullied may feel they need to take drastic measures or react violently. Others even consider suicide. For some, the effects of bullying last a lifetime."

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development gives this definition:

"Bullying is being aggressive to another person in a physical, verbal, or relational manner. Cyberbullying (or “electronic aggression”) is bullying that is done electronically, including through the Internet, e-mail, or mobile devices, among others."

So today as I was reminded of the worth of every soul, as a literal child of God, my heart was drawn to my baptismal covenant and a deep sense of gratitude for an understanding of my responsibility and promise to strive to develop the Christlike quality of charity. When I think back to that little girl of only 10, who could have momentarily been so thoughtless to have not realized how hurtful my actions were, to now feeling such pain for those actions, I am so very thankful for that incremental growth that has come line upon line as I've come unto to Christ and felt my need for the Atonement.

As parents, grandparents and teachers, this is the opportunity that we have with our children and students: to teach, nurture and guide them in recognizing those around us who may seem different, left out, and who the world cast off as dross. These are the many found by the wayside, hurting, lonely, often in need of a friend, and as we have learned, some perhaps at risk of suicide. As we encourage our children to try putting themselves in the place of those who others might feel comfortable treating less than, we teach them to become like the Savior -- thus they are developing charity; the pure love of Christ.

I'd like to share with you a video-poem by popular poet, Shane Koyczan, titled "To This Day". I think you'll be moved by this current art form and the way in which Shane has been able to take his own experience with being bullied and personalize it to so many who have also been affected, and empower them in the healing process. It's a powerful piece and ongoing project.

Video: To This Day  - Shane Koyczan




They Were Wrong! 

Awareness of social issues is a good thing when we remember, and have faith, that the answers are always found in applying the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

How have you helped your children understand the problem of bullying and identifying when they are being bullied or being a bully? Have you found positive ways to help them develop charity as you've discussed bullying in your family?

tDMg
Kathryn Skaggs

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Photo Credit: Chesi - Fotos CC

6 comments :

  1. I saw this video earlier this week, and it was a stark reminder of some things that happened to me as a child. I was also bullied a couple of times as an adult. While I learned to stand up for myself, the hurt never goes away. Thank you for addressing this issue. We ALL need to be more sensitive to the feelings of others. -- Tudie Rose

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    1. Isn't that incredible? The hurt that is experienced when one is bullied, how deep it is embedded in our souls? And to imagine what it must be like for children who experience this daily is truly a devastating thought. This is an issue that we as parents really need to pay attention to, whether our children are potentially a victim or a perpetrator.

      Either way, it will affect them in a very negative way. Honestly, I am more bothered by what I did, than what was done to me. For some reason it is easier to forgive others than to forgive self, as odd as that may seem.

      You also bring up another interesting topic: adult bullying. Now that is a very interesting place to go...

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  2. Thanks for the article Kathryn. A good reminder, and reminds me of Elder Holland's talk on The Tongue of Angels.

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    1. Oh yes Greg, another inspired address by Elder Holland! And I love that we can somewhat better understand his tender sensitivities to individuals, knowing more about him in his earlier years. I loved learning about his own experience. It really strengthened me.

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  3. There are two results from bullying. (1) The person bullied is cowed and browbeaten. (2) The person bullied becomes a crusher of bullies.

    I was raised in a small town in Utah. I haven't been back for many years because I hold a grudge that the people there would not understand, given the time that has passed. It's not important that they understand. It's only important that I understand where it came from, why it's there, etc.

    Adversity molds us and defines us.

    The best way to deal with a bully is to destroy him/her by the same means that they employ. Though you will disagree with me and this is an LDS blog, I'm right. It is the only way that the bully will understand what they're doing and ultimately it will lead to their ability to ask forgiveness. It's not twisted logic. It is human nature. And if the bully is missing a few teeth when you're done with him/her - there are dental implants available.

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    1. You know LL, I have no clue what you went through, or what the current mind of your perpetrator is, so I'm not going to attempt to judge where you're coming from.

      Though I will say this -- which comes more from my gut, than any place else -- I imagine that many criminals, who end up in our prisons, began as bullies on a playground somewhere. Meaning that if someone, just maybe, had used a heavy hand to correct, or discipline these bullies when they were younger there's a good chance they may not have continued to hurt other kids, like you, and gone on to terrorize and criminalize society necessitating incarceration, or worse. So your feeling the need to punish your own bully or bullies may not be so out of line -- perhaps? Or even worse, cause some kids to feel so distraught as to take their own life.

      Anyway, I do agree that our adversity does mold and define us -- but we get to decide which direction that is going to be.

      Thinking of my past, and those who hurt me, and the anger I harbored -- and I'm not just talking about what I wrote here -- I realized that by continuing to hold on to old anger I was giving away my current power, disabling my ability to move forward in the present -- ultimately hurting myself.

      Bottom line: There's a third result from bullying. (3) The person who is bullied takes back his/her power by choosing to not see themselves as a lifelong victim of their perpetrator. They recognize that person as one who lacked the ability to have compassion for another human being -- therefore they pity such an individual. They have learned to reach out to others with a renewed sense of love and compassion for their fellowman, with particular sensitivity to the outcast. And finally, they leave the past in the past, where it belongs, and can no longer have power in their life.

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