I witnessed an amazing thing happen a couple nights ago. My husband’s childhood bully apologized to him. Read that again and let that sink in as that was a huge moment. How often does that happen?
I have been with my husband for 16 years. We have shared with each other stories from our childhood that still haunt us and give us issues to this day. Everyone has issues. We all deal with them in different ways. One of Seth’s main issues was that he was bullied as a child. We aren’t talking about being verbally assaulted or physically threatened, we are talking about being beat up and feeling afraid to get off the school bus.
Seth was holding on to so much resentment towards his childhood bully. It isn’t good for us to hold on to our anger. When we hold on to resentment, it isn’t harming the person we are angry at. It is harming us physically and emotionally.
We talked about letting go of his anger. We talked about forgiveness and how important that is for Seth’s emotional well-being. As I talked to Seth about this bully, there were so many things as a social worker that I wanted to share with him. We don’t know what was going on in that boy’s home when he was bullying Seth? We don’t know what kind of man he turned into. His bully may have grown up to be a wonderful husband and father and changed for the better. We could hope.
This bully helped to shape Seth into who he is today. Seth is a black belt in Krav Maga (Israeli Military Self Defense System) and has learned many self-defense techniques. He continues to go to his Krav Maga classes to this day. If your child is being bullied, one of the best tools that you can give to them is martial art skills. If I felt like I had time in my schedule I would put my three children in martial arts so that they know how to defend themselves. I think with school presently being closed I need to put Seth to work on giving his family martial arts lessons.
Seth is also a fierce papa bear who would always step up to defend his three cubs. He is also very strong, and I see him deal with most obstacles with ease. All our issues from childhood shape us and give us strengths that we wouldn’t have without the difficult situations that we faced in life. I’m not saying at all that I am happy that Seth went through being bullied as a child. What I am saying is that I’m very thankful for the strength that it gave him.
A couple days ago, Seth saw himself tagged in a string of comments on Facebook. I will let Seth tell you his remarkable story.
I was bullied from the ages of 9-13. It made my life miserable. I held on to that anger and resentment for 25 years. Or so I thought. A few years ago, my publishing company had a client who wrote a book on anti-bullying, by interviewing child psychologists, social workers, therapists, and other bullying experts. Helping edit and publish that book helped me a lot. I even wrote a stage presentation for the author to give at schools and helped write the workbooks that went with it. Being able to learn from the process was helpful to me, and contributing my own experience was therapeutic. I thought I had forgiven and moved on, as much as I knew how.
A month ago, I did a podcast where I interviewed David Woods, an expert on having tough conversations. He mentioned a conversation where he reached out to HIS childhood bully, and the bully apologized, and they became friends. I got goose bumps, and realized there are no coincidences, and I still had work to do around this issue. So, I found the bully from my childhood, friended him, and messaged him on Facebook. I sent him the link to that podcast. I never got a response, and assumed he ignored me, but I felt better that I had made the attempt.
A few days ago, I was tagged in one of his posts. It turns out that the across the wall neighbor in my duplex growing up had made it to the NFL and played for the Patriots. I had no idea. The player was released from the Patriots that day, and the bully was posting that he hoped that the Patriots player would come play for the team of the city the bully now lived in (not here). Someone else from the old neighborhood pointed out that the bully beat up the Patriots player when he was little. Various people started commenting on how he made the whole neighborhood miserable, but that Seth Greene (me) got the worst of it. Another person who was my best friend back then said I probably had the bully on my list of people I would want to kill one day.
The bully then tagged me (which is how I saw all of this) with, “Seth Greene, say it ain’t so. I was a dick back then.”
I saw it, started tearing up, and showed it to my wife. She helped me write a response to him, which I sent. He responded, and commented how he was a big bully then, didn’t realize what he was doing to people, and had never apologized to me. I apologized too, commenting how there were times I am sure I made it worse, by trying to hurt his feelings (because I felt physically powerless back then). He said that was true, but no matter what I said to get him back, it wasn’t an excuse to hurt me physically. He said he had watched some of my webinars and tuned in to some of my podcasts in the past and was really glad I was doing well. He said he had gotten very emotional as well and showed our message thread to his wife and kids. He asked about my family, my brother, and my parents, and I asked about his.
I had no idea about the amount of emotional baggage I had still been carrying until he apologized. Since that night I have felt a sense of peace I can’t even begin to describe. I feel a million pounds lighter. Childhood wound of 30+ years healed.
End Seth, begin Rebecca writing again.
With all this transpiring over this week, we felt compelled to have Seth and I share this with you. I wanted you to hear that people carry stuff with them thirty years later that still needs to heal. I wanted you to hear Seth’s story and what he went through as a child. I wanted you to hear how he used that pain and grew from it and became a stronger person. I wanted you to hear that the bully knew that he was wrong and was feeling bad. It was good for him to apologize to Seth and release that from whatever he was holding onto. It was good for Seth to finally hear that apology to him that he didn’t know if he would ever get. Regardless of getting an apology, it is more important for our growth and well-being to feel forgiveness in our heart. I don’t like to see anyone carry emotional pain and anger with them.
If anyone understands what it is like to be bullied, Seth does. If your child is being bullied, I guarantee you that Seth can relate to them. I hope that this story gives you hope and inspires you to forgive whoever you need to and/or to reach out to whoever you need to reach out to. Remember that if they don’t give you the words that you are looking for, you can still let go and forgive. You are the only one that has the power to do that. If you or your child is going through something that is hurting you physically or emotionally, I also hope that this story will inspire you to reach out for help. Help is out there for you.
We would like to leave you with tips for if your child is being bullied:
- Take your child seriously. You want them to feel heard. You want them to know you believe them and are there for them.
- Listen and calmly ask questions. The more heated you get, the harder it is for them to open up to you.
- Martial arts training – gives them confidence, assertiveness skills and self-defense strategies. If you can’t afford a martial arts school, ask them if they can work within your budget or look into classes at the YMCA. Another option is to ask an older child or adult to train them if they have the skills.
- Focus on assertiveness training. Role-play with your child. I have heard multiple times that verbally standing up to a bully can work. Teach them to yell “Stop!” Just yelling “Stop” can work. If that doesn’t work teach them to yell “Stop,” and then to walk away from the situation if they can.
- If this is happening at school reach out to the school. Talk to the teacher, principal, ask for a school meeting to address the situation. Be your child’s advocate. If you don’t stand up for your child who will? Schools have much better anti bullying policies now vs. when Seth was dealing with this 30 years ago.
- Depending on the severity of the bullying you may need to reach out to authorities.
- Monitor your child and help them feel safe. If getting off the school bus is an issue, make sure you are there to meet them. If you can’t be there due to work etc. make sure another trusted adult is there to meet your child and keep them safe.
- Talk to your child about not being alone. They should have someone to walk with in the halls and to sit with at lunch. Help them make a plan to feel safe and not alone.
- Monitor your child’s social media accounts. You want to make sure there is no cyber bullying going on and that your child and their friends are acting appropriately on social media.
- Acting skills are a wonderful tool to utilize. When my children tell me things that are very upsetting, I have learned how to act calm and cool. Not only do parents need good acting skills, so do our kids. They need to act like the bully doesn’t bother them. A good thing to teach them is to tell the bully “you’re right.” Then whatever the bully is saying to your child loses power because they agreed and didn’t get upset. The bully is looking for a reaction. Without a reaction it becomes less fun for them.
- Seek counseling – get help! I don’t want to speak for the counselor but when I was counseling families, I went into school meetings with the family to help remedy whatever the situation was. The counselor can help your child cope and learn the tools to deal with the bully. The counselor can help you cope and teach you how to best help your child. The counselor can also go with you to school meetings if they are willing to in order to help you get the best results. If they are unable to attend, then they can prep you for how to get the results you are looking for.
Please don’t suffer in silence and don’t let your child suffer in silence. There is help out there for you. I don’t want any child to have to go through what my husband went through. I’m glad he was resilient and got through it and became such a strong adult. I feel truly blessed that he got some closure this week and had such a great conversation with his childhood bully. I hope that sharing his story was helpful.
Laughing, Loving, Learning,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R