Learning to love your bully: can you forgive and forget?

At secondary school I was a geek. Painfully shy, tiringly un-confrontational and desired nothing less than being ignored on the netball field.

Being so shy, bullies would often leave me alone. They did not get the reaction they desired and I was boring in their jousting game. So I spent the majority of my primary and secondary years with my head firmly focused on the pavement in front of me.

That’s not to say that bullying did not go on at my school. No, it went on alright. I just stared at the greying chewing gum trodden into the floor.

One boy who was picked on was called Charlie. He had a really strong odour and there were rumours going around that he had head lice. One of the popular boys with Gareth Gates style hair and a Dad who, when he was around, would pick him up in a Bentley, stood behind Charlie in the class photo. For weeks afterwards he proceeded to tell everyone who listened that he could physically see the lice crawling over Charlie’s shaggy brown mop.

Charlie had a few friends who stood up for him, but most people knew the rumours and knew the smell. If it went on when he was close by, I’d often walk away, or freeze like a rabbit, so that people wouldn’t be able to see me.

Charlie was eight years old. He left school at the end of the year with rumours that he went to live with his father. His mother was having problems.

Problems? Mums don’t have problems? As an eight year old, the only thing I worried about was whether or not I’d be allowed chips this week or if I had a new toy to play with. My clothes were always clean, my house was always warm. I didn’t have a care in the world.

I told this story to my friend, Sarah, one evening after I had found out that Charlie was now in prison for GBH. He’d attacked someone with a razor blade. I knew the name of the victim, and I was pretty sure that he had been in our year at school.

I told Sarah how I had never stood up for Charlie.

“Does this make me a bully too?”


“What would you have done differently?” She twirled her straw in her drink and I searched my brain for all the things I would change, how I’d save the day with a simple “leave him alone!” and a karate kick. Charlie would be a lawyer in London now, not banged up in Stafford prison.

“I was bullied in Primary School, too.” Sarah said.  “One of the guys sleeps on the street now outside Boots.”

Sarah then told me that when she walks past the boy who hit and verbally abused her, she will often buy him a coffee or give him some spare change.

“Why the bloody ‘ell would you do that?” I said.

“I feel sorry for him I suppose.”

“After he relentlessly bullied you? After you had to change school because of him?”

“No.” She was trying to think of the right thing to say and then this came out so perfectly:

“Because I realise how lucky I am.”

I had not expected my friend to have any kind of compassion for the boy who hurt her. But it got me thinking – do we need to forgive or forget bullying in order to move on with our lives? Or do bullies not deserve the kindness that Sarah can give?

Tony Posnanski writes simply that bullies cannot change, and that the cycle of bullying is never-ending:

Bullies are weak-minded people. Kid bullies have weak-minded parents who were bullies once as well. They prey on those who have a weakness — or a visible one.”

Does that mean that there will be many other kids like Charlie? How can we end up with a positive outcome from bullying, and not in Stafford prison?

And those who did nothing, like my shy primary school self, are they part of the bullying package? Are my children going to be weak-minded and ignore bullying too?

Lisa Keating says:

“I look at bullying differently. There is pain at both ends of the spectrum. What kind of society are we going to be; one that condemns the aggressor with narrow absolutes and no path out? Or do we tap into empathy and compassion?

What I cannot accept is that people can’t or won’t change. In the past ten years, this country has been flipped upside down in the fight for marriage equality.  Awareness and acceptance continues to sky rocket.”

Forgiveness, particularly in severe cases of bullying may not come naturally to many people. But realising that these hurtful comments or attacks are more a reflection of the bully that yourself is hugely important.

I looked at Sarah with awe. She had managed to forgive, or feel some sort of humanity, towards a person who wronged her. She had successfully left the past behind her.

But, like in Charlie’s case, it’s not so simple for everyone.

Could you ever forgive your bully?


HH xo.


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9 Comments Add yours

  1. Karen Burton says:

    Being positive towards the adult versions of the children who bullied your own child is harder.

  2. Hi Hannah. Your piece is thought provoking. I was not bullied but was not popular either, asI kept a low profile. But if I were, and seeing all the negativity and hatred in the world now, I think I would do as your friend, Sarah, did. And maybe because I do try to live by the Golden Rule.This is a wonderful piece.

    1. hannahadkins says:

      Many thanks for your comment, Candice. I do hope that we can all live by this rule of humanity is key! Following you HH xo

      1. Thanks for the follow back, HH xo

        Hoping the same, that all be kinder to one another.

  3. Tami Smith says:

    Thank you for sharing Hannah. You ask your readers a great question. To answer you, yes, I have forgiven my bullies, and it is one of the best decisions I ever made! 🙂

    1. hannahadkins says:

      Wonderful of you to comment. And very pleased that you decided to forgive and have felt the weight lift off your shoulders through that 🙂

      1. Tami Smith says:

        Anger and bitterness definitely sucked the life out of me. Forgiveness was awkward at first, but I simply kept practicing it according to my faith, and, over time, it has become so authentic and vital for me. 🙂

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