Did you ever have a bully growing up?
Or maybe you were someone who bullied other kids?
Whatever the case, there’s no doubt that bullies are everywhere when you’re growing up: at school, on the bus, in the neighborhood.
But why do they do it?
Former bullies opened up on AskReddit about why they tormented other kids.
1. Not funny, though.
“No abuse at home. No bullying from others. No anger at the world, etc.
Just trying to get everyone to laugh. Fortunately I was only 13 when I had a camp councilor absolutely ream me for making fun of a kid I genuinely liked and considered a friend.
The bullying ended there. I’m still thankful for everything that councilor said to me, decades later.”
2. Attention and power.
“I was a bully during my elementary school and at the time I wasn’t aware of the gravity of my actions until I explained my behavior to my friends.
When I look back on my bullying behavior, I realized that I enjoyed picking on others because it me gave attention and power that I lacked at home because my foster parents would would usually mentally abuse me.
Thankfully, I have managed to reform my behavior and I realized that my past actions can’t be changed. Also I still continue to feel regret and guilt which acts as a constant reminder to be a better person that brings a positive impact instead of creating suffering for my enjoyment.”
3. I was wrong…
“I was like 15/16, and it was towards one girl.
She began to date a friend’s ex, said friend told me she took her boyfriend and a bunch of drama. I acted like a typical mean girl towards her and it was rough. Turns out my friend was the WORST and I had acted awfully to someone who didn’t deserve it.
I ended up messaging her on Myspace and called her. We worked it out. We’re actually really great friends now and can laugh about it fifteen years later. We swap books and I see her quite often.
We actually talked about this very situation last time, it made me tear up thinking about how mean I was at that time. I’m so glad I sucked it up and admitted I was wrong.”
4. Protecting yourself.
“I assisted in bullying so I wouldn’t be bullied too.
It’s one of my biggest regrets in life.
5. Taking it out on others.
“I was a horrible bully until I had an epiphany in the 4th grade.
I was horribly abused at home by my parents and all my older siblings. I was the smallest, youngest, and the most ridiculed in my family. They would take my stuff, lock me outside, call me “midget” and gave me no privacy.
They would jam my door with towels so I couldn’t close it and poke at me all day no matter where I tried to hide. I remember expressing that I felt like a caged dog being poked at with sticks. I could gnash my teeth and rage at them but it only made them laugh.
They tormented me for fun, then when I would cry they would get upset and punish me. I got shoved in a dark closet for a few hours on occasion. Alone, in the dark.
I wanted to feel big and independent. I wanted to have a place where I wasn’t the lowest on the food chain.
It started with the realization that I was lonely. I was so alone all the time. This then led to the realization that kids were scared of me and hated the way I made them feel. Over time I was able to understand that I was making them feel exactly how my family made me feel.
I was doing to others everything I hated having done to me. It was unfair, they were just like me and I had the option to exempt them from what I went through every day.
It took a few years to fully turn around. 12 years later I’ve just found the kids I’ve bullied. I reached out to them each personally. In as few words as possible I apologized.
I told them they didn’t do anything to deserve it. It wasn’t because of how they looked or that I didn’t like them, I bullied them because they were nearby and I needed to feel big. That the hate they experienced was not a result of who they were. I expressed to them how I’m working to create resources for kids like myself so that they don’t bully others like I did, and that I hoped they were doing well.
I wasn’t looking for any forgiveness or to feel good about myself. I wanted to limit the pain I caused as much as I could. But let me tell you, the responses I got from those people were beautiful.
The kid I bullied most told me he had already forgiven me and over the years realized I was probably in an unsafe situation. He said he even prayed for me a few times.
I was mean because nobody loved me, I was a sponge for every ounce of anger and hate my household poured into me. I was mean to others because it squeezed the sponge out a little. It wasn’t right. I’m going to make sure my kids never have to go through that.”
6. Bad home life.
“I was a bully in like 3rd-4th grades.
And it was absolutely because my home life was sh*t, so I visited that sh*t on others. But then I knocked over a Kindergartner, making his nose bleed really bad and he started crying.
Nothing snaps you out of being an *sshole faster than hearing a little kid sobbing for his mommy.”
7. Rolls downhill.
“I was bullied myself by jock kids and I bullied the kids below me in a”Sh*t rolls down hill” sort of situation.
I thought I was being funny with my cruel jokes and amusing my friends but I was just being an *sshole.
I’ve had the opportunity to apologize to a few people I bullied in the past and I’m glad that I did.
I hope I raise my daughter to be a better person that doesn’t bully people she finds different.”
8. Coming clean.
“I thought I was funny.
I liked making people laugh at others’ expense. I never thought about their feelings until I was much older.
Now I tell my kids every day before school to be kind and to stand up for people.”
9. Trying to fit in.
“I did selective bullying. And some of it was to fit in or be liked.
I grew in a Christian conservative household, and my parents were not role models. I grew up believing the gay community was an abomination, whom deserved death. It was really hammered to hate them.
So in middle school if me and a couple of friends found out someone was even remotely suspected of being gay, or even had a soft spoken voice, we’d make that kid’s life a living hell, constantly calling him the f****t word, telling them extremely graphic insults.
I remember this one kid Carlos, I decided to mimic all those cartoons and kids movies where they grab you by the legs and flip you upside down and shake the money out of your pockets. I mostly did that because there was these project kids who were the bully of bullies, no one messed with them, they’d even bully other bullies if they weren’t from the projects.
Anyways I thought by making them laugh and showing how “tough” I was I’d win their good graces. It did work, they immediately thought I was awesome and hilarious. After that though they always expected me to do something crazy, which honestly I started to hate, cause of the pressure.
Eventually though I met this girl Kemellie who I crushed really hard on, she wouldn’t become my gf unless I stopped being a bully. Which I did. She was also my first gf. Turned out Carlos was a really close friend of hers and her groups, I had to put up with being nice to him so I could keep my gf.
All the constant exposure to him, and tolerance, really let me get to know him, and I remembering being confused that he wasn’t such a bad guy, or sick, or f’d in the head like my parents and other adults had led me to believe. He was pretty much just like any other dude except he was gay, I even asked him why he was gay, and his answer really had me dumbfounded.
That moment was a stepping stone, because it made me question a lot of what I had come to believe. I started questioning my religion, looking deeper into it, reading a bunch of articles online about homos*xuality and other things, and when I confronted my parents and other religious role models about my findings, their answers really made no sense, it was just a ton of contradictions.
A lot of them not understanding modern science about s*xuality, psychology, neurology. After that, I couldn’t participate in their beliefs anymore, and I become agnostic. I learned to think three times after that, I learned to be empathetic too, a quality I severely lacked.
Had it not been for my gf at the time, I always wonder would I still have become a better person. No gf after that ever challenged me like that ethically ever again, they’d just accept me with all much baggage and anger but not Kemellie she didn’t play games, she pushed me.
Anyways, indoctrination is a b*tch. And a lot of my wrongs was due to the simple fact I was taught the worst of the worst things.”
“Was abused at home and had a sh*t home life.
I just acted that way because it felt normal. I didn’t know how else to relate to other people. One day probably around 5th grade, the principal (who was very kind and involved in student life) took me aside and had a long talk with me. She explained how my actions were making the other kids feel. That my behavior made them feel scared and hurt their feelings.
She asked me how would I feel if somebody said and did those same things to me. It was hard for me to understand what she was asking me. I didn’t think that how I felt mattered. People did treat me like that every day, and I was not allowed to think about how it made me feel. She wasn’t mean or judgmental. She was someone I liked and trusted and she just patiently explained it to me until I at least kind of understood.
I was shocked. I hadn’t even realized that the other kids truly minded the way I was treating them. I know that sounds dumb, but I thought that it was normal to be mean and hurtful. That it was just how you were supposed to talk to people. If they cried and got upset, it didn’t really mean anything.
Because it didn’t really mean anything when I cried and got upset at home. When I told my family that they were hurting me, they didn’t stop, they punished me. I was expected to wake up the next day and truly feel/act like nothing happened, or I was ungrateful and a terrible child. It was wrong to talk about or think about how their abuse made me feel.
So that’s just what I thought hurting people meant. That it didn’t really matter, and the by next day they should just be over it, or it was their fault for being a dumb crybaby. Needless to say I didn’t have many friends, and I didn’t understand why nobody wanted to be around me.
But she explained to me that no, it’s not normal for people to treat you that way, and it’s not normal to treat others that way either. She put me in school counselling too. It wasn’t great, but it at least helped me learn the basics of how humans are supposed to communicate.
I still treated people badly sometimes all the way until college, but I think that the principal talking to me was the point when I actually realized that something was wrong with my behavior, and when I actively started working on it.
I feel bad about the way I acted, but at the same time, it’s all such a jumble of trauma and it felt so normal to me that it’s hard for me to even remember. It’s hard to identify exactly what happened and what parts were or weren’t my fault. I don’t really think about the bullying part too much anymore to be honest, because it’s such a small part of a much bigger trauma.
Anyways, I’m sure that people are bullies for many reasons, but this one explanation. I hope that it helps someone understand a little better.”
11. Egged on.
“A new girl came to my school and a boy developed a crush on her. A ‘friend’ of mine had a crush on said boy so spread all kinds of rumours about the new girl.
At lunch time one day, egged on by my ‘friends’, I confronted the new girl and pushed her over. The new girl was so calm about the whole thing, and I remember thinking at the time that I could not have acted the same if bullies were in my face and pushing me. Anyway flash forward 8 years and I bumped into the girl at a CD shop. We had a nice chat and organised to catch up for coffee. I apologised for what I had done when we were kids and she was so understanding.
Flash toward another 15 years and she is one of my best friends. She is still so calm and mindful and has taught me a lot about myself and life. I hate the way we met, but I’m so grateful she was so forgiving and I couldn’t imagine her not in my life now.”
Were you a bully when you were young?
Or maybe you were bullied by someone?
Either way, tell us your stories in the comments. Please and thank you!