A Bully’s Redemption

Posted: July 27, 2014 in Uncategorized
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What happens when a bully gets called out by their former victim? Does he deny what he did? Maybe he says, “Shut up, or else!” or he tries to justify his behavior by saying, “I only did that ’cause you were eyeballin’ me!”

Or maybe he apologizes and humbly asks for forgiveness …

Last week, I posted “A Bully’s Memory,” my first of what will be many entries about bullying. In it, I called out four bullies from my past who’ve sent me Facebook friend requests that I’ve accepted without discussing the aforementioned bullying. I shared it on Facebook in hopes that the “big four” would recognize themselves and do the right thing. One of them did, the man who I called “Sleazy Rider,” but whom I’ll now forever address by name, Wayne Lutz.

Though I didn’t use his name in the piece, Wayne recognized himself in it. Although he didn’t fully recall the time he snapped in woodshop and threatened to pound me into the ground, he felt horrible for having done so and, to his credit, he publicly apologized. Right there on Facebook for all our shared friends to see, he identified himself as “Sleazy Rider” and shared a rather heartfelt and sincere apology. This makes him more of a man than most people I know who use the term to define themselves. Also to his credit, Wayne sent me an even more sincere and heartfelt apology on Instant Message … a message that spurred a phone call, which pave the way for a reconciliation.

“Hello?” I said.

“Hey J.P. How’s it going?”

There it was … that slow, familiar drawl that I hadn’t heard in six years. Admittedly, it felt a bit odd because I knew we had to discuss the now-infamous “woodshop incident,” especially after I put it out there in such a public way! And so began our conversation, one in which all posturing, ego, attitude and other defense mechanisms are stripped away, allowing two men to just talk as equals, neither one afraid of losing their status or reputation. In that hour, we learned more about each other than either of us thought we knew. I was surprised to find out that he, too, had some issues with bullies at the school. For example, the bully who threatened to slam me into the concrete each day in Spanish class was the same one who used to follow him home from school and threaten him. (I still can’t help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, his lashing out at me was somehow in response to his own torment.)

Frankly, I was surprised to learn that Wayne had been bullied. To be honest, I would’ve never pictured him as someone who had to deal with these things that experienced on a near-daily basis in school. Though we’re the same age, Wayne always seemed so much older and more mature than the rest of us at that time. It was this very attitude that he had it all under control is why I looked up to him back then and why I hung around him as much as I did. Suffice to say, Wayne told me some things that he experienced as a young man, this explained the look of weariness he had in his eyes back then, and why he was forced to grow up faster than his emotions could handle at that time. Out of respect for him, that’s about all I can say … the rest is his story to tell, not mine.

In the end, I’m glad I spoke with Wayne because it reminded me of one very important thing: he’d only been my bully once, but he had been my friend both before and after the incident. All these years, I’ve focused only on that to the point where I forgot about this. To think I’ve missed out on the opportunities for friendship with him all these years because I held on to that for so long! (Admittedly, this is something I’m working on.) It’s also made me realize that anyone, even friends, can have a bad day, and they might say things they don’t really mean, and that I wasn’t alone when it came to the bullying at Hamady High.

I hope I was able to match the honor that Wayne displayed; I feel I owe him that. It took a lot of guts for him to apologize publicly, and I have an immense amount of respect for him. It’s too bad the other three bullies mentioned in my first post couldn’t muster up a fraction of the integrity that Wayne Lutz has. I shouldn’t be surprised, though … a bully is a coward, and ignoring my first post was a cowardly way of not owning your shit. So to Mr. Slick, Napoleon, and Senor Caliente, I have this to say, and it’s something I’m sure you’ll recognize:

“This isn’t over ’til I say it is.”

J.P. Ribner’s experiences with bullies and the violence they cause has led to the creation of his three novels: Legacy of the Bear, Prophecy of the Bear, and World So Dark.

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Comments
  1. It’s not surprising to learn that your bully was himself bullied. Hurt people hurt people and many of us that were beat down naturally needed a way to feel strong and some of us lash out, wrongly, at others as a way to do it.

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