Compassion for a Bully

Compassion for a Bully

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Be The Best You Can Be

Compassion for a Bully

There is always time to make right what is wrong.

~Susan Griffin

My sixth-grade year was one of confusion, intimidation, strength and friendship. There was a girl in my class named Krista. She was taller than me and very skinny, with bony arms and legs. I remember her beady brown eyes and the hard look on her face. Krista didn’t like me. In fact, I think she hated me. I was always the smallest in the class and maybe that made me easy to pick on. She would say, “C’mon, little girl, show me what you got! Or are you scared? No one likes you, little girl.”

I tried to act like it didn’t bother me and walk away. Sometimes it would just get to me, and I would say, “Stop it!” I definitely didn’t want her to see me crying in the bathroom. As the year went on, Krista began to get more aggressive. She started coming up to me and punching me in the arm with her bony knuckles. My friends told me to ignore her as we walked away. But those punches hurt. Why me? What did she have against me? I had never done anything to invite this kind of behavior.

One day at recess, I decided to face the bully. I had been imagining this moment for weeks. Oh, how good it would feel to punch her back. I wanted to show her that I wasn’t scared. So right as the bell was about to ring, I went up to Krista and kicked her in the leg, and then ran as fast as I could into the classroom. I was safe with the teacher in the room. But Krista beamed an evil look my way and said, “Be scared. I’ll get you later.”

I worked hard at avoiding her the rest of the year. I remember telling my mom about it, and her consoling me with open arms and kind words. She said, “Nobody can tell you how little you are — you decide how big you will be.” I really liked that saying. I would say it in my head often and find strength in these words. Krista continued to punch my arm periodically, but eventually it slowed down. But the thought of Krista and her torment didn’t die so quickly in my mind.

A year later, in seventh grade, I received a letter from my temple letting me know the date of my Bat Mitzvah, the biggest day of my youth. Then I read who my partner would be for this special occasion. KRISTA. How could this be? I would stand in front of family and friends and read from the Torah, become a woman and share this moment on the pulpit with Krista? She was the source of all my anxiety and insecurity and yet this day was supposed to show my strength, pride and wisdom. I was supposed to become an adult. And she would be there, waiting to belittle me. It wasn’t fair.

I practiced my portion for months and planned a wonderful reception. I tried to put the thought of Krista out of my head. When the day came that Krista and I saw each other for the first time in a year, we both acted civil. I could tell she wasn’t pleased either. Of course, she couldn’t punch me in the temple.

I was all dressed up, standing before a huge audience, wanting so much for things to go smoothly, especially in front of Krista. I would have died if I messed up in front of all these people and then had to deal with the laughing and teasing of this bully. I imagined all the names she would call me.

When I read my Torah portion and my speech, I read loudly and confidently. I knew it well. I had practiced long and hard. I saw my friends and family smiling to me, and I focused just on them.

Then Krista came up. She was shaking. I was shocked at how nervous and scared the bully seemed. I had never seen that side of Krista. She was always so strong. But as I watched her fumble through words and chants, I saw this tough girl become weak, flawed and human. I hadn’t thought of Krista as human and emotional. As she sat back down in her seat, she quietly cried in her hands. I suddenly felt something that I never imagined feeling toward Krista — compassion. I had always dreamed of the day I could laugh in her face and make her feel as little as she made me feel. But now that the day was really here, I didn’t want to anymore. I sat down next to the sad girl, as her hands remained over her eyes.

“I know I messed up; you don’t need to gloat. Go away!” she said.

“You were nervous. Everyone understands. No one remembers the mistakes. They love you and will focus on all the good. That’s what family and friends do,” I told her.

“Not my family. They love to tell me my mistakes,” she answered. And then it made sense to me. This is why she was a bully. This is all she knew.

I put my hand on her shoulder and told her again that she did great. She could barely look me in the eyes, and then she whispered, “Thank you. I don’t know why you are being so nice; I was never nice to you.”

“I know. But it is in the past; it’s over.”

“I’m sorry,” she finally said. I smiled and gave her my forgiveness. I told her what my mom had told me the year before, “Nobody can tell you how little you are — you decide how big you will be.” Hopefully, those words gave her the strength that they gave me.

I truly believe I became an adult that day.

~Melanie Pastor

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