Victim or Villain?
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. For more information about the warning signs, or how to help prevent bullying, please visit www.StopBullying.gov.
Safe space? OK, cool. I’ll admit something I’m not proud of: In High School (Go Aardvarks!), I was one of the cool kids.
Ugh, it pains me to say that, because I’m not cool, nor was I ever. But I was a part of a group that was considered cool. The reason I find this so awful is the realization many recovering cool kids face: that they were likely the villain of someone else’s story.
A story I love to share about this time in my life is actually about another so-called cool kid I knew once upon a time. For fun, let’s just call her Regina. Her perceived power over the rest of us maintained a certain kind of order in our ranks (Note: this is NOT an endorsement of bullying, just an observation), but it did so through fear and intimidation.
One day, as we walked to class, I made a joke - the kind of joke that might make you roll your eyes or, at most, give me a playful shove. To this day, I don’t fully know why, but Regina turned and slapped me hard across the face, much to the surprise of our other friends, who stood stock still and gaping. The craziest part about the whole thing is that we all just started walking again, and no one said a word about it. Ever.
So, fast forward a decade or so, and my husband is accompanying me to my high school reunion. Having heard this story a million times, he was naturally eager to lay eyes on this Regina character, so I slyly pointed her out: “See the woman in the blue dress? That’s her.”
Hours later, my sweetheart leans over and proudly reports: “I’ve been giving Regina dirty looks ALLLL night. I got your back, babe.” Looking horrified, I whisper back: “Regina left ages ago, who are you glaring at?!” Turns out my wonderful, thoughtful, amazing husband had been shooting laser beams from his eyes at a classmate’s new girlfriend - who just happened to be wearing a blue skirt, poor thing.
Mercifully, we haven’t seen that classmate - or his girlfriend - since. But, unfortunately, she’s probably still walking around wondering why my husband hates her.
It’s hard to recognize, but just because you see yourself as the victim (or hero) of your own story, it doesn’t mean that you’re not also the villain in someone else’s. We have to work at this kind of self-awareness, and often it takes something jarring, like glaring daggers at a former classmate’s plus one, to get us to the point where we’re ready to admit we’re not saints. Sometimes it can be just learning about others’ experiences, or hearing about our own behavior from someone we trust, that does the trick. But those opportunities tend to be hard to come by.
So I’ll leave you with this - short of being struck by a bus - what are you doing to ensure you’re not someone’s Regina?