Kids Can Be So Cruel

(We can?  Thanks, Mom!)

We had dinner a few nights ago with some dear friends, and somehow or other we started talking about high school experiences.  Of the four of us, two had gone to tiny Christan schools and two to large public schools.  Among other differences (Prom vs. Banquet Without Dancing) we discovered that the two of us who had been in a Christian school saw very little evidence of bullying.  The two from public schools saw a lot.  One, my husband, described his journey through high school as largely uneventful, due to his ability to stay under the radar -- he was neither popular enough to attract attention, nor unpopular enough to be picked on.   The other, who has always been both well-read and shy, happened to use a slightly unusual word in a conversation with her next-door neighbor; the other girl thought it was the funniest thing in the world and trained her group of cronies to hiss the word at my friend every time she walked by.  Years later, her tormentor invited her to a reunion event, probably having forgotten completely about how much misery she had caused.

If you don't watch the Mentalist [you're missing out!] this recent episode has a very similar situation: a group of jock-ish guys continue their teasing of a smaller classmate twenty years after graduation. Clearly, they see nothing wrong with what they're doing until the victim lashes out in anger.  Likewise, maybe in this girl's mind she was "just kidding around."  But oh, what a horrible thing to have to endure.  I can only thank God I have never been harassed like that, and I hope I've never done anything similar to a classmate.  I certainly don't think I did; I was blessed with plenty of self-confidence and few, if any, enemies.  It's probably more likely that I watched others do it, giving assent by inaction -- making me just as culpable, and maybe even more dangerous.  Oh, the horrors of adolescence.  Where do we learn to treat other human beings this way?!

The good news, I suppose, is that there's always the opportunity for healing. Rod Dreher wrote about it last Lent, from the perspective of someone who'd done a wrong, wanted to apologize, and did so through Facebook (okay, I guess the brainsucking vortex has a few merits.)  And judging from this classic clip, it's never too late to put a wrong right:

(Apologies for the dork who thought he could outdo Steve Buscemi's original role.)