The Day I Fought a Bully (And Won)

by lizclark on November 4, 2013


Every day the bell rang and the kids ran to recess.

I walked, partly because the teacher said “Walk, please!” and also because I was in no hurry.

It was Kindergarten, but the playground was the loneliest place I knew.

In the classroom, I had the safety of structure and learning and rules.  Where questions were asked and answered, like neat little transactions.  Pages were colored, stories were read, items were sorted and counted.  These were things I understood.

On the playground, I was alone and it was awful.  Everyone seemed to have friends already.  I felt invisible.  The swings screeched.  The metal slide was always too hot.  There was a strict rule that we were NOT to pick up the woodchips, but everything else was pretty much fair game.  God forbid someone should upset the woodchips.

One day at recess, a boy whose name I’ve forgotten started teasing me.  He called me names because I have a gap between my front teeth.  I tried to ignore him.  But then he twisted my arm behind my back and tried awkwardly to pin his other arm around my neck.  I shouted, but no one came.  Maybe I should have kicked some woodchips to get some attention.  He continued to call me names.

I shouted, “Let me go or I’ll….I’ll bite you!”

He laughed and told me that I would never bite him.

Big mistake.

So I did the only thing that seemed logical at the moment.  I bit his thumb (which he was holding foolishly close to my face).

His loud squall for help finally penetrated the teachers’ social huddle on the outskirts of the playground.  He was screaming, “She bit my thumb off!  I have no thumb!”

Which, for the record, was entirely untrue.  His thumb was still very much attached.

We were marched directly to the Principals’ office and our parents were called.  At the end of a very long lecture, the Principal stood up, leaned toward me and said, in a very ridiculous voice, “How would you like it if I bit your thumb, Elizabeth?”

That was my last day at that school.

No, I wasn’t expelled.  But the grown-ups in my life thought I deserved better than a school with bullies on the playground and in the Principals’ office.  They fought for me.  I was transferred to a small private school and had (mostly) positive school experiences from then on.

That day, I gained a kind of quiet confidence.  I certainly wasn’t a violent kid and never acted out like that again.  But, I did become less afraid to stand up for myself.  Less afraid to take real action when something was wrong.  That day, I learned to be an advocate.

I’ve faced many more toxic situations in my life as I’ve grown up and I’ve learned that biting is generally not a good strategy to overcome them.  But here are a few tips (that don’t involve teeth or saliva) that do work:

  1. Be HonestTake a few minutes for yourself today.  Ask, “What situations am I facing that aren’t right?  Who or what is ‘bullying’ me and/or trying to make me be someone that I’m not?  Why am I allowing this bully to treat me like this?”  Be honest with yourself and write down your answers.
  2. Know Your Boundaries – For me, name calling was irritating, but I didn’t start drawing clear boundaries until that boy started to harm me physically.  I should have expressed my boundaries sooner than that, but at the time that was my limit. Once he crossed it, I knew it and he learned it.
  3. Follow Through - Without biting anyone, take action!  What practical steps can you take (or start planning) to move away from this toxic situation?  Be firm, caring and clear on where you stand.  You’ll find more freedom and less anxiety.  You might not have to totally leave a situation to see improvement – often expressing clear boundaries improves situations greatly.

I’d love to hear your feedback on how you’re overcoming bullies or toxic situations in your life.  We all face them – let’s face them together and get life done!  Also, please feel free to share this post with anyone who you think may like it.  I look forward to hearing from you!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy Campbell November 4, 2013 at 7:19 AM

Yes..backed into an impossible situation, anyone may find themselves courageously standing up against a bully. I do find that confidence stats with you, it lingers to remind us we aren’t helpless always and that we do have the ability (even of it’s our parents who help us)…to change our situation. Great post Liz and great job standing up for yourself. Even though it was years ago, I’m very proud FOR you!


lizclark November 4, 2013 at 10:31 PM

Thank you, my dear Amy! I appreciate you and your tenacious spirit. Keep standing up for what is right and keep fighting that good fight!


Sally Clegg November 4, 2013 at 8:07 AM

What a great writing. I was bullied all the time in school. It was horrible what happened to me. Guess what? All of a sudden it stopped. I fought back. I fought back and I didn’t stop until I kicked some butt! Honestly, the only way to stop a bully is to fight back and don’t stop until the fight is finished. You might take a beating in the mean time, but you finish it.


lizclark November 4, 2013 at 10:32 PM

Oh, Sally! I’m so sorry to hear you were bullied, but I’m glad you stood up for yourself! And now look how much JOY you and Sydney bring to so many! That is a story with a happy ending. Hugs to you, my friend!


Kristin Coke November 4, 2013 at 2:47 PM

Well, Liz… though your timing isn’t meant for me specifically, it surely fits! BOUNDARIES BOUNDARIES! These are things I think we all know, but you are gifted and putting them in black and white and penetrating our hearts and minds with the undeniable truth. Thanks for poking us in the gut when we need it. Always praying for you and your powerful ministry.


lizclark November 4, 2013 at 10:33 PM

Thank you, Kristin! Yes, boundaries, indeed! Thank you for your kind words and your prayers. I look forward to getting to know you better! :)


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