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Thoughts on Bullies

Edit: Check out our official school assembly program page!

There’s been a lot of media coverage about bullying recently due to several teen suicides.

I’m glad to see this problem finally starting to get the attention it deserves. These deaths are a tragedy. They could have been prevented.

It’s time we admit the old saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is total bunk. Words do hurt. Words can kill.

I’m going to speak candidly about my personal life. It’s an odd thing to do on a business blog. I need you to understand how passionate I am about the subject.

We created our anti-bullying school show long before the media spotlight hit. For us it’s personal. I don’t want anyone to go through what I did. Even at 26 years old what happened to me as a kid still haunts me.

When I graduated High School in 2002, I weighed 400lbs.

I began losing the weight in 2008 through a combination of diet and exercise (no surgery).

Growing up I was always the “big kid”. Every day of my life I was bullied. In fact, I’d like to take a moment to dispel one of the most common myths about bullying.

Bullies aren’t always bigger and stronger than the people they bully. In fact, some of the worst bullies in the world are compensating for being short or little.

Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. Bullies are as diverse as the insecurities that make them bullies in the first place.

Even in Kindergarten I suffered from being overweight. One of the smallest kids in the class would pinch me on the playground then run away. Being big I couldn’t catch up with him. He and his friends found it entertaining to watch the fat kid run. Amazingly, no teacher ever seemed to notice this happening.

This wasn’t just a light pinch either. He left bruises all over my body. At one point my parents thought I had something medically wrong with me because of all the bruises I had.

Torment like this continued for years. It wasn’t until fourth grade that things started to get better. I was placed in an “inclusion” class as a “role model” student. Mixed in the class were other kids who suffered from learning disabilities.

Suddenly the playing field was equal. They were able to see past my size to see the real me. They were misunderstood, so they made the effort to understand me. In turn I learned that people with learning disabilities were often very intelligent. They just couldn’t learn in traditional ways.

In junior high I was placed back in “regular” classes. The bullying promptly resumed. In fact, it was WORSE than anything I experienced before. Every moment of the day was filled with physical assaults and verbal torment.

Eventually I resorted to violence. I’m not proud of that. It should never have come to that. It did, however, curtail the bullying. The rest of my school years through high school were fairly peaceful. In college I pretty much kept to myself.

Then I got a “real job” in an office. I figured everyone had grown up and that my days of being bullied were over. Boy was I wrong. Office bullying is very common.

Now bullying took on the form of constant criticism, yelling, being continually reminded of my mistakes, gossip, exclusion from activities, having my work sabotaged, and having others take credit for my accomplishments.

That’s when it hit me. Bullying wasn’t just relegated to the school yard. Bullying is a social sickness. Adults can’t and won’t change. If we’re going to fix this thing, it has to start with the kids.

That’s why we created our anti-bullying school assembly show. Bullying and violence prevention are a part of who I am. It’s in my DNA. My major life goal is to help other people who are being bullied.

Our school assembly stars Gus the Rubber Chicken. He’s a professional stunt chicken! We go out of our way to show how awesome he is. We want the kids to realize that people who are the victim of bullies don’t deserve it!

Even though Gus is a really cool guy, he’s the victim of school yard bullying. From there we talk about the positive steps he took to resolve the problem. In doing so we cover physical bullying, verbal bullying, and cyber bullying.

When I was a kid the internet was still a pretty new thing. I managed to dodge the cyber bullying bullet.

I was talking to a teacher the other day. She said: “The cyber bullying problem is new for all of us. It used to be when a kid went home they were safe. Now the bullying comes in through e-mail, Facebook, and their phone!”

No wonder the kids are suicidal.

For us anti-bullying and violence prevention is a life mission.

We’d love to take Gus’s positive anti-bullying magic show to your school. Please contact us today for more information.


16 Responses to “Thoughts on Bullies”

  • Adrienne Krizan on

    Nicely written.

  • Joshua Johnson on

    Dude I understand entirly and if you remember I was in the same situation in the same school as you . However I didn’t take the high road like you. I instead, became the bully which to this day I feel horrible for . So good job for sticking up for the the kids that get picked on everyday.

  • Mystical Matthew on

    Adrienne –

    Thanks for the complement! I noticed you “liked” this on Facebook as well. I really appreciate the support!

    Joshua –

    I remember clearly man… I remember what they did to you too. It was wrong.

    I’ve done a lot of research on the subject while writing the script for this show. It’s actually very common for people who are the victim of bullying to become bullies themselves. That’s the #2 reason it happens (right after peer pressure).

    My road wasn’t the “high” one. It was just a different way of coping. We both had to find ways to survive and there wasn’t anyone there to teach us how to handle it positively.

    In your Facebook post you mentioned that John Shaffer always had your back. He had mine too. I still talk to him occasionally.

    The most proactive way to prevent bullying is to make friends and stick together in a group. Bullies tend to try and single people out. That’s one of the things we teach in our program. Make new friends, don’t go anywhere alone, and as a GROUP tell the bullies their behavior is unacceptable.

    My only regret is that we didn’t form a stronger friendship in school. We could have had each other’s back and probably saved both of us a lot of trouble.

  • Patty Dowdy on

    Matthew – So sad that this happened to you and that it continues to happen to any child, teenager, adult. We will never stop the problems of the world until we can respect and care for each other. Such a simple cure . Proud of you for doing what you can to help !

  • Glenda Crook on

    Matthew, I really admire your article. It sure does hit home for my boys. I adopted 2 foster boys and you talk about bulling. They get it everyday. These boys have been in 23 different homes because of this. It is very hard to for a foster child to be able to make friends because this terrible world we live in likes to condem and point fingers at them. You just don’t or wouldn’t imagine the nites they cry because they have no friends. My heart breaks every nite for these kids. School parties or over nites at friends houses they never get, they are excluded from everything. I would love to bring the boys to one of your shows just so they can hear that they aren’t the only ones. Thank you again so much for the very kind words you have written.

  • Karen Hoffman on

    This is a great mission and one I hope will go very far. There are more of us out there that have been bullied then most want to believe. I was as a child and believe it or not were I work it continues and I am 50. Good luck in getting this very important message out. If you save one child it will have all been worth it..

  • Mystical Matthew on

    Glenda –

    I feel for your boys. I can only imagine how difficult it is for them. Exclusion is another painful form of bullying. Unfortunately it’s the most covert and impossible to stop. You can’t make people accept you.

    Often times when a child is bullied, they’re afraid that befriending another victim of bullying will make their own problem worse. Chances are other kids suffer similar circumstances as your boys (possibly even other foster kids). Unfortunately fear of making the problem worse keeps them from reaching out.

    One of the best non-violent solutions is for victims of bullying to befriend each other and stick together in a group. Bullies love to isolate their prey. Unfortunately it’s difficult to see this when you’re beaten down on a daily basis.

    This show is what we take to school assemblies. What school do they go to?

    Karen –

    First, we kind of figured. We’re students of human behavior, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see it – even from the outside.

    The bullying problem is HUGE. Child bullies grow up to be adult bullies. Until I entered the workforce I thought most people grew out of it. Not true. If bullying behavior isn’t curtailed during the formative years it extends into adulthood.

    Once bullies become adults there’s nothing to contain their behavior. Sure you can tell your boss, but what happens when the bully is your boss? You can be a whistleblower, but there’s a cost to that (as a family friend of ours is discovering).

    By the time they reach adulthood they’ve become proficient in the art of not getting caught. What happens when the bully is so good at covering their tracks that they make YOU look like the one out of line?

    That’s what I mean by calling it a societal sickness. It’s something embedded in our cultural DNA. The only way of curing it is to raise up a generation of kids who learn that the way we treat each other matters.

    Society has turned a blind eye to it until recently. The implication has always been that victims of bullying somehow deserve it. That if they just “toughened up” the problem would solve itself. For far too long we’ve believed that if we just ignore it the problem will go away.

    Mom suffered through similar issues growing up. Repeatedly she was told as a child and even in adulthood “Well just lose the weight!” Like it’s a simple thing that you can just check off a “to do” list. Losing the weight is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

    When we both finally gained ground in the weight loss battle we encountered an entirely new type of bullying. Bullies will find any excuse to do their thing. It’s just easier to blame the victim than it is to solve the problem.

    I give credit to every school that is trying to do something about the problem. It’s not going to go away overnight. The road ahead is long, but not impossible.

    I’d like to believe that the recent teen suicides have helped society take the first baby step forward. Now it’s up to every one of us who has spent our lives being bullied to keep the momentum going.

    If we stand alone we’ll be ignored, but if we unite… We’ll change the world.

  • Josh Robertson on

    The thing that still disapoints me to this day are the teachers that turned their heads and pretended nothing was going on. There was a time when some kid was literally just strangling me in the middle of a class room with both hands and I saw the teacher look over and then quickly look away. Eventually she expressed she was literally scared of him and didn’t want to say anything.

    It’s disgusting.

    Luckily as a adult I have the power and courage to stand up for myself and what I believe in every day. All kids don’t have that power!

    What is happening here is fear. As Yoda said from Star Wars:

    “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

    Our children shouldn’t have to live in fear!

  • Mystical Matthew on

    Josh –

    Gotta love Star Wars! A good teacher, Yoda was! lol!

    It’s true that as adults we have the power to stand up for ourselves, but even that has consequences. Like I said, being a whistleblower is noble but comes with a hefty price tag.

    A family friend of ours stood up to a bully at work who lied about him, falsified documentation, and lied under court oath. He has plenty of evidence to back him up, but was fired for blowing the whistle.

    He now has to endure endless months and possibly years of court battles. Meanwhile his family is struggling to survive due to the loss of his income.

    You’re lucky that you’ve not had to pay that price. The thing is, if he’d have rolled over and accepted the bullying he’d still have his job.

    Most people would have rolled over and taken it. That’s their way of “handling” bullies.

    The bottom line is that bullying behavior shouldn’t happen in the first place, even in adulthood. The only way to stop it is to teach our children that it’s unacceptable!

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