I have been doing some “soul scratching” work the past few weeks and the concept of bullying came up a few times. So, I have been thinking about that quite a lot recently. As you know, I do not write scientific papers. I write about what is going on in my head. Taking into consideration that I am quite an emotionally driven individual, when I say I “write what is in my head”, I actually mean that I capture what I am feeling. No science here.

With all these thoughts and feelings running riot through my head and heart, I then saw this video on Facebook yesterday. In this most disturbing video, a school boy is being terribly beaten up by another boy, while someone else was obviously recording the incident and some others were watching and cheering him on. Apparently there was a teacher somewhere in the picture as well. I did not see that part, because I could not get myself to finish watching it.

I have always had an immense reaction to observing any form of violence. Even just the concept of forcing someone to do something they do not want to do, I find quite upsetting. This became very prevalent in my life around the time of being called up to do my compulsory military service. All the shouting and “power-playing” left me with a terrible bitter taste in my mouth. The idea of initiation in high school and varsity left me numb. I could never “get” why one person would want to knowingly hurt or harm another human being in any shape or form.

So, during my soul meandering I had the shocking revelation that, not only do I despise bullies and what they do and stand for, but… I used to be one. How do they say? “If you spot it, you got it”! Can you imagine, me being a bully? Normally not. But. Yip, I could compare with the best of them. The difference between me and conventional bullies is that I did not hit, or bump or shove or wrestled or threatened, oh no, I went for the proverbial kick in the balls first. I hit where it hurt the most. The soul! The psyche. The self-image. Leaving scars we do not see. Not knowing if they are healing or not.

I used to gossip and talk badly about people behind their backs. I specialized in manipulation and psychological blackmailing. Are those not just other forms of bullying? Does that not also leave the recipient with pain and discomfort and some form of scar to heal? Is that not also a way of trying to force a certain action out of someone? Yes, these actions all have the results of bullying, just a lot more covert than a fist on the jaw or a slap through the face.

The intent was always the same. I wanted to cause hurt, prove superiority and make others look and feel bad. I wanted to damage the recipient’s self-worth and chisel away at their egos until they crumble. And that is what the video brought up for me. How is that poor boy ever going to process what he had to endure? I now feel really bad about what I’ve done.

Today I have choices.

The first choice I make today is not to bully anyone. Neither with bad words, nor with manipulation, or gossip. As I am not the world’s most assertive person, I tend to always look for another way to get my way rather than to face someone directly and state my case or express my needs.

The second choice I make today, is to take and accept responsibility - for what I want and how I am going to get it.

The third choice I make is to put my own wants second to spirituality. In other words, where do I need to be to do what today? In contrast to where I want to be doing what I want to do. Am I doing anything good or I am just self-serving?

The fourth choice I made today is not to hurt anyone or myself - with neither my deeds, nor my thoughts or my words.

I apologise to those I have hurt in the past. To those who knowingly or not so, ended up on the wrong side of my weakness. I cannot take the pain and discomfort away, but I can take responsibility and stop doing it. I can even go so far as to write about it; create an awareness around it - so that just maybe one other person does not bully someone else today. Making the world a better place.

As adults we have the responsibility to create a physically and psychologically healthy youth. We cannot stand by and be witness to any form of bullying. It is never okay to bully and it is never okay to be bullied. By witnessing bullying and not doing anything about it, we are bullying too. We are accomplices. We are saying to the bullies that what they are doing is okay. And it is never okay. Never! We need to do whatever we can to help both the victims and the perpetrators. Both parties are hurting. They just express it very different ways.

How can we help? Take responsibility! You are the adult. Support organisations like The Jag Foundation or The South African Anti-Bullying Forum or The S.A.P.S Anti Bully Campaign. See to it that both the victim and the bully gets psychological counselling to process the trauma and to get down to the root causes - help them to stop hurting. It is possible. Speak to our children and teach them about bullying. Most importantly, create an environment for your child to nurture a healthy and strong self-image. Be a parent, uncle, aunt or friend who listens and understands, who is there to help and whose lives with compassion. Make it easy for the children to know that you are there to help.

I am here to make a difference. To do things differently and take responsibility.

My name is Freddie, I am a recovering bully.