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Building From Bullying: Bystander, #1000Speak

1000 Voices Speak for Compassion I was unsure whether I would even participate in this month’s instalment of 1000 Voices Speak For Compassion.

I knew, when I saw what March’s topic would be, that the posts would be many and varied, but I wasn’t clear on what my individual post should be.

I thought and contemplated on this question for a few weeks.

This topic touches a nerve, as bullying touches us all at one time or another, in its many forms, but we’ve all seen or experienced it.

Anyone who were to say otherwise would either be lying, forgetting, or unclear on the fact that bullying is on a wide spectrum of the word as it’s defined.

Hopefully it’s the middle one because this, hopefully, means someone did not have it happen bad enough to have left enough of a mark.

On the other hand, for the other side of the coin, one might block certain events out, if they were bullied or be in denial on just how they affected others, as in the case of being a bully or bystander to bullying.

I see the seriousness with which it is spoken nowadays and I don’t think even in the late 90s, when I was in school, bullying was taken nearly as seriously as it is today.

Of course, we did not have cyber bullying and thank God we did not. Girls can be cruel enough.

I experienced bullying. I wouldn’t know for sure, at the time. I could define the term, which I m sure some today will do, but I don’t really think that’s necessary here.

If it hurts someone’s feelings it counts.

I experienced it.. I did. I did not receive torment to the point of contemplating suicide. When I hear this today, because you didn’t hear as much about that back then, I can’t imagine what that would be like, how bad it would have to get and for how long.

I would have been more sure about writing today if any real story I had to tell.

This is a good thing. It means nothing was so bad that it stuck with me in the years since I left school.

Oh, of course I could write about something I did experience, but I don’t think one thing sticks out over the rest. I do know that I wanted to write about the fact that I was lucky, not that I should have been bullied and wasn’t. There is no excuse for it and it is impossible to say why one gets targeted worse than another.

I do know that I was in a school where I was the only blind student, besides my younger brother, and that could have been a source for ridicule. I know of lots of visually impaired children who were tormented to the point that they fled to the school for the blind nearby, hoping or I’m sure their parents thought, this would solve the problem.

I know now, if I did not know it then, that bullying existed there just as anywhere. Children looked down on each other and just because the students were all of the same disability, does not mean there was any less bullying to be found there.

I stayed where I was and I am glad I did. I did not escape being made to feel like I wasn’t wanted by a kid or two, now and again.

I had friends and I lost friends. I was the bully and the bullied. It’s hard to admit that for others to read, but it’s true and I think it’s necessary for us to speak about.

I still think back to the small amount of pestering a friend and I did toward a little boy who had once been my only friend. I don’t know that he still doesn’t think of that. I hope he thinks, if he remembers it at all, as I think of the bullying I received, that it didn’t affect him in any lasting ways. I would hope it left no lasting damage, but is that simply to assuage my own remaining guilt?

I fell to peer pressure just as easily as the next child. If I felt included and wanted, I might just go along with bad actions, for the same fear of becoming the one left out in the cold once more. This is the reason so many stand by or take part in something they probably know, in their hearts, is wrong.

Being the bystander is a worse position, in ways, to be in. It is the tougher choice to make. It leaves you feeling guilty, although you can easily convince yourself it’s not that bad because you aren’t the obvious choice for main bully.

I was cast out of friend circles. I was followed at recess and mocked. I know it’s true and it was horrible at the time. I could speak about my experience on both sides of bullying. We all could probably point to times when we were either the bullies or the bullied. It’s the bystanders that we all, more easily could fall into the category of, more often than not.

Bullying towards a child with a disability is very common. I could write about statistics and such, referring to articles of children with disabilities who can’t get away from being made to feel bad for a disability they never chose to have in the first place. I did reference an article in the reveal for today on my blog.

This is the article.

I am sure people would expect me to write about it or know a lot about it, either one. I don’t know enough about the numbers to speak much on that I decided.

I had the idea to include an example of bullying that many kids today have probably read. I think it should be a teachable moment, for any future class, because what class wouldn’t want to read Harry Potter?

I hope my niece and nephews will want to read the book and won’t be affected too much by bullying. Wishful thinking, I am sure.

When I read Harry Potter as an adult, I came across a particular passage in the fifth book: Order of the Phoenix. It caught my attention, as so much of that book did. It remains, to this day, as one of my favourite parts from the entire series of the books.

I liked it because it was the first flashback to the generation before Harry and his friends. I finally got a window into the world of Harry’s parents and their peers at Hogwarts. It was brief and it left me wanting more. It left me wishing Rowling would write another whole series of books, taking place when James and Lily Potter and their friends were at school.

I read the short few pages of a memory of Professor Snape as a teenager, one where he was bullied.

Harry was not supposed to be poking his nose into the mysterious, magical basin of memory in Snape’s cupboard. HE did it anyway and he saw more than he bargained for.

He saw his father and friends as bullies. A few of them, such as Lupin, he did not take part, but he was a bystander. HE sat and read his book, as James and Sirius went after Snape for amusement and simply because they were bored.

“Students all around had turned to watch. Some of them had gotten to their feet or edging nearer; some looked apprehensive, others entertained.”

I did not like this flashback because I enjoyed seeing this. I liked it, as I said, because I was getting to see another layer of the story I was coming to love so much.

I look back on it now and thought it would make a good example of how common bullying is and I applaud Rowling for making a teachable moment out of a great story.

I would use it to teach about bullying, if I were a teacher. I think it showed cause and effect. It showed that bullying affects some more than others.

In Snape’s case, he carried what those boys did to him along with him for years to come. It seemed to colour his life in ways, both big and small. It changed who he was.

Of course it wasn’t the only reason Severus Snape was as cold and guarded as he was. He had a rough family life, but many do. Bullying alone leaves a mark. The two together can be disastrous.

I had a safe place to come home to , at the end of the day, if I had been snubbed or mocked or excluded at school. I came home at night and I had a soft place to fall, with a sympathetic ear. Not every child is that lucky.

I love literature because it can exhibit the tough parts of life in ways that make you think and consider. I don’t know how children take that, when they come across my favourite flashback in Harry Potter. I was able to see it for what it was, as a twenty-five-year-old reader. Perhaps children might not be able to see the seriousness and significance of what that flashback showed of the angry professor’s youth, but it also shows students that their favourite protagonist Harry felt bad and could, for the first time, feel some empathy for the teacher he hated so much.

Bullying is an important lesson and it should be talked about openly in school. I think Harry Potter, as a child who is able to feel bad for others, is a great lesson for other children to take as they grow up.

I will leave others to write about the true stories of bullying in their own lives and in the ways that most affected them.

I always seem to find a way to bring everything back to Harry Potter, no matter the topic, and I’ve done it again.


I think anyone with a child or in the care of children should check out the part of Order of the Phoenix I am talking about and, if those children in their lives are at all fans of Harry Potter, to read that part with them or at least ask them what they think of it.

Literature is wonderful for fostering discussions about the things people find hard to talk about otherwise.

And so does #1000Speak. We can build from bullying, by taking something negative and turning it around for something that can make us all stronger.


13 thoughts on “Building From Bullying: Bystander, #1000Speak

  1. Great writing. Thank you for sharing your story. I was bullied and beaten up in 6th grade. The girl was in 8th grade, she kept slapping me and I just stood there. She was jealous because a boy in 8th grade liked me. All my schoolmates told me to hit back, as they gathered around us. I never hit her back. At the same time, this was happening, my 6th grade boyfriend was getting beaten up across the street. I still think about it to this day.

    • Thank you and glad you could read and comment here today, for such a good cause, an important issue for us all to talk openly about.
      Sorry to hear that happened to you, but hopefully things as trying as that serve to build strength.

  2. I have to say I think it’s great that you don’t have one moment that sticks out for you as far as bullying/being bullied goes. I wish that for my children. I know they will both deal with it, but I hope the impacts with be transient.

    I will have to give Harry Potter a re-read. I didn’t even make it to that book in the series. I’ll add it to my list!

    • I hope that for your children and for all children.
      Yes, do read that book, if you get a chance. It might be the best in the series. I have high hopes that my nephews and my niece will love it.
      Off to read your #1000Speak post now. Thanks for reading mine. Have a great weekend.

  3. I love the Harry Potter books – can’t wait until my daughter is ready to read those. At the rate she’s going, that won’t be too long! I think there is so much in that series that is good and positive. And that is one of the reasons why I, too, love pretty much all literature – it teaches us, guides us, connects us, and makes us think. It gives us things to talk about.
    I think my experience with bullying is much like you talk about here – I can’t say it didn’t happen, but none of it sticks out as so severe that it was devastating. I wish that for my Daughter, as well.
    Glad you’re part of #1000Speak!

  4. I felt a great sense of letdown that James, Sirius and Lupin were Snape’s bullies. But I suppose sometimes authors bear responsibility for ensuring plausible negatives, and certainly it would explain Snape’s hatred of Harry. Sins of the father, and all that *sigh*

    Glad you wrote this, in spite of not having experienced any bullying which left a devestating mark on you. I like that you’re a part of this, and I’m glad you wrote for #1000Speak again 🙂 Thank you.

  5. I’d forgotten that H P incident and it a good reminder, isn’t it of the unforeseen consequences of bullying. Nice post, thank you. It seems to be the case that everyone has a bullying story even if some are so episodic that they have not really left scars. I realised reading one post by Yvone Spence that in fact, as a parent I had bullied my daughter to get her to stay in bed. And how she could describe that today (at 22) with a vivid detail that I have too. Neither of us is better for it. So easy to do, so unintended and so regretted but sadly not so untypical.

    • I wanted to use literature, a medium that I love, to illustrate cause-and-effect of something like bullying. We all do it at one time or another, even without intending to. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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