The story I’m currently writing has a bully in it. I’ve been trying to put myself in her shoes, to pinpoint her motivation. Why does she hate the main character? What is her backstory? Did she have a sad childhood? Was she a victim of bullying too? Abused?
But no. There really is no tale of woe for this mean girl. She comes from a wealthy family, her parents are decent people who have tried to teach her right from wrong, and there is really no good reason why she should be so mean.
Except that a reason for her actions doesn’t have to be a good one. I don’t have to look too far to realize that.
Back in the fifth grade, there was a group of mean girls who loved to put me down. My 10 year-old self could never understand why these girls, who claimed to be my friends, could be so mean. I had never done anything to them except try to be their friend.
Yet, there they were every day at recess, locking me out of the bathroom, making fun of how chubby I was, how awkward I was with my glasses and flabby stomach and hamster cheeks. There they were, putting glue on my hair and on my backpack. There they were, stealing the notebook I kept with all my stories just to make sure I wasn’t writing about them. *(see footnote)
There they were, knocking my book report project off the front display after the teacher had praised me for a job well done.
“Teacher’s pet,” they sneered.
And looking back now, I see it’s there in that single taunt. The answer for the motivation of both my fictional and real-life bullies.
Jealousy. That single word is the backstory for many bullies. Cinderella’s stepmother was jealous that her husband would always love his first wife more. Maleficent was jealous that she wasn’t invited to the party along with the other fairies. The Evil Queen was jealous that Snow White was prettier, younger, and kinder.
And yet, we cherish these fairy tales because the heroines emerged triumphant in that they did not allow jealousy and bitterness to darken their own souls, though it would have been so easy for that to happen. In the words of Taylor Swift, “the cycle ends right now, ‘cause you can’t lead me down that road.”
I didn’t realize it when I was 10, but 20 years later, here I am, a little wiser (I’d like to think).
What I also didn’t know back then was bullies appear in every stage of life. They never go away. Some are more subtle than others. But all bullies have one goal in mind. To make their victims feel small in order to make themselves feel bigger and better.
Complete strangers will make snide, cruel remarks about you based on your name, what you look like, and who you are. Even friends will sometimes take subtle jabs, though they try to cover it up by adding a “Just kidding,” at the end. Are they kidding? Yes, but no. Who knows?
There will always be someone who will disregard your opinions, dismiss your dreams, pretend not to hear you, treat you like a wallflower. But it’s important to remember that the moment you succumb to believing those lies is the moment they win.
And it also brings to my attention that even the nicest person can become a bully. Because jealousy can become a disease if you let it fester in your heart. Personally, I don’t want jealousy to become my backstory. So it’s important to rejoice with those who rejoice because their success doesn’t interfere with our own.
Just as we should not let another’s darkness snuff out our own candles, we should also not let our lights dim when we see the sun shining in someone else’s eyes.
*Oh, little did they know I may not have been writing about them in the fifth grade, but that changed about five years later in high school. *evil smirk* Never mess with a writer.