Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_airdone'>airdone / 123RF Stock Photo</a>I’ve lived fifty-one years on this earth before it happened: Someone bullied me. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve been picked on occasionally, for one stupid thing or another. Is it possible to attend thirteen years of public school in the United States without being picked on? Unlikely. But today someone bully-shamed me on Facebook for something when I was completely innocent of ill intent. I learned a lot from the experience.

Being bullied or publicly humiliated or shamed, whatever name you put on it, makes you take stock of yourself. It puts your self-esteem in a check status. It threw me for a bit, but, thankfully, as a reasonably well-adjusted, mature, responsible adult, I was able to take a step back and regroup. I have a lifetime of experiences to draw on to remind myself that I am not the terrible things that were said about me. I am NOT a B-word. (I’m sure my siblings would heartily disagree in an instant. They have their personal reasons, but eventually, perhaps reluctantly, they would agree that deep-down I am NOT a B-word.) Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to adjust themselves after such an attack.

I was brought back to a pivotal moment in childhood. (If we only realized when they were happening in childhood that our stupid, little choices were critical decisions, we would maybe give them more thought.) A developmentally disabled boy sat in a seat alone on the bus, and some other boys were picking on him, telling him he was “no good,” that “nobody would ever want to sit with him,” and other similar bully phrases. I got mad. The boy was defenseless, nearly mute, so I sat next to him and told the other boys to go sit on their brains. It was a split-second decision that defined who I became as a person. I was never bullied. I was the defender of those who were bullied, and I defied anyone to harass me because of it. Anyone who went to school with me, I hope, would agree that I was NEVER the one to find fault with someone else for ANY reason. I’m sure I made my share of stupid mistakes, as any kid does when they’re developing their sense of priorities and values, but I did NOT pick on people.

When someone accused me today of being the kind of person who WOULD do that, and shared their wonderful opinion with a large group of my peers, it struck like a knife to my core. There is a big difference between having a contrary opinion about something and making a personal attack. I was expressing my opinions, and that was all. In this era when our world is so split by differences of opinion on policies, we all, adults and children, need to take a step back and put ourselves in someone else’s shoes before we lash out in public forums. Yes, you are legally allowed to express yourself here. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Go off on your own and take a few deep breaths. Say a mantra. Do what you’ve got to do to get yourself under control before words come out of your mouth or you type that text or post.

Words can bruise far more than anything else you throw at someone.