What Would You Say To Your High School Bullies?

Stories of childhood bullying are fairly commonplace. What is not commonplace however, is when someone confronts a bully, decades later in a very public setting.

That is what happened to Katy ISD Superintendent Lance Hindt. Mr. Hindt was confronted by someone he allegedly bullied severely in high school. The video has gone viral. Thousands have called for Mr. Hindt’s firing. Thousands have stood up in support of Mr. Hindt. Others have come forward to offer their stories corroborating that Hinds was in fact, a bully in high school.

Watching Greg Barrett recount the terrible physical assault he endured, brought up many painful memories for me regarding my time in the Mt Lebanon School District.

I was an “overweight” kid by societal norms at that time. I was often tormented over my weight by other kids. I remember their names and faces as if etched on a memorial to my suffering.  Like Mr. Barret, I was also physically assaulted.

My older brother Mark had given me some gold, bell bottom disco pants. It was around the time the Saturday Night Fever movie and soundtrack came out so this style of clothes was not all that unusual among the disco set. The pants fit Mark fine but were tight on me but I wore them to school often. They were a symbol of the love of a person I idolized and wanted to be like. I was sometimes fat shamed when I wore them. I used self-deprecation about my body a a defense mechanism.

One day I was walking home with a group of who kids I desperately wanted to include me in their group. The began making fun of how the pants looked around my fat stomach. They physically assaulted me.

The kids began pulling at my pants tearing them. Then it was like wild dogs on a bone. The tore them off me completely and threw the remains out into a busy street, leaving me only in my shirt, underwear, shoes and socks. I gathered up the remains and used them to cover up my underwear for the long walk of shame home.

When I got home, I buried the remains of my pants at the bottom of the waste basket and told no one. I felt I could tell no one. I would lose my parents and brothers love and respect and validate how I felt about myself. Someone unlovable who was too weak to stand up to bullies. For years I compensated for that event dismissing it as just “kids being mean”. It was an assault.

I dragged the shame of that little boy through life like three tires attached to a chain and permanently affixed to my ankle. I was dragging it when like Mr. Barrett, I put a gun in my mouth in 2005. My first of two trips to a psychiatric facility. I dragged it through eating disorders, addiction and failed marriages. The shame was a gaping wound in my stomach that defined what I saw in the mirror as an adult before I finally began to allow that little boy to heal and learn to love himself in 2007.

In 2007, in addition to getting sober, I began therapy to tear back all the layers of my life and finally help that child. I talk to that child. I write letters to that child letting him know that the bullying was not about him. That he should not feel ashamed for keeping it to himself.

There were times during that process when I wanted to confront those kids and tell them what they did to me. I heard one of my bullies (not one of the ones who had assaulted me) had passed away and my only feeling was that he finally got what he deserved. Anger and hatred driving only me and not the bullies from decades before. I came to realize in therapy that it made no sense to hold on to that anger as it was destroying me.

In therapy, I found a place within me, as a middle aged adult to forgive those kids who tore my gold, bell bottomed discos pants off. I have no desire to cause them pain with stories who they were decades ago.

Does forgiving mean I have forgotten? Of course not. I could go to the spot within a few feet or so in Mt. Lebanon today and point out where the assault to place. Some trauma stays etched in the memory like a memorial to life-long pain. I could contact them on Facebook today and confront them. I won’t do it. I have no desire to do it. I have forgiven them. I continue working on forgiving that teenage Brian for feeling like he had no choice but to feel like he did not matter. He did matter. He was enough.

My journey is clearly different than that of Greg Barrett. It is not my place to tell anyone whether they should forgive and what that word should mean to them.  If any of my bullies were in a place of authority over children like Mr. Hindt, I can’t say that I would not do exactly what Mr. Barret did. His journey belongs to him. I however, do have something to say to him.

Mr. Barrett:

My heart aches for you and that little boy who had no one to stand up for him. While our stories have differences, I know what it’s like to carry that little hurt, bullied little boy through life. Regardless of what ultimately happens to Superintendent Hind, I am glad you and that  boy finally had a voice. It’s not just a voice for you but a voice for all those hidden bullied little boys and girls wanting to find their voice as well however they define that. Hopefully a healing voice. I wish you all the best in that journey.

Brian Cuban (@bcuban) is The Addicted Lawyer. Brian is the author of the Amazon best-selling book, The Addicted Lawyer: Tales Of The Bar, Booze, Blow & Redemption (affiliate link). A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, he somehow made it through as an alcoholic then added cocaine to his résumé as a practicing attorney. He went into recovery April 8, 2007. He left the practice of law and now writes and speaks on recovery topics, not only for the legal profession, but on recovery in general. He can be reached at brian@addictedlawyer.com.