Patrick Stewart and the Shame of Bullying

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I was rather moved when I saw this tweet yesterday.

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It’s already heartening to me to see celebrities that I highly respect stand up for a cause that feels so personal to me, to see smart and powerful people acknowledge that the torment that so many kids endure at the hands of their peers is genuinely damaging, and a crisis worth mustering resources to stop.

But he didn’t just support the cause. He owned up to his own culpability. I’ve done some Googling around, and not found any instances of Stewart elaborating on his tweet (“at times I was a bully”), so I can’t say just how much of a bully he was or wasn’t. Did he tease once in a while? Join in when others started taunting someone else? Or a prime source of harassment? I don’t know. But that doesn’t really matter.

Listen, ever since I got out of that environment, I cannot recall a single instance of anyone – anyone – admitting they were a bully, to any degree. I may have heard from people I didn’t go to school with some minor variation on “Yeah, I teased some kids, but that’s just kids being kids.” But I’ve never heard of anyone saying, “I was a bully and I am ashamed of it.”

And I’ve certainly never heard it from any of the people who tormented me. And there were lots of them, but not a one has ever said anything. I do not expect and never have expected them to.

But here we have Sir Patrick Stewart, one of my heroes, as both an artist and an activist, actively working to combat bullying, and saying flat out, “When I was a child at times I was a bully – and I’m ashamed.” He’s saying I did it and it’s not okay. It’s not just kids being kids. And he didn’t just say he regretted it, or that it was a mistake. He feels “ashamed,” he carries the feeling with him today.

Maybe it’s silly that it means so much to me that he’s said this. But it really does.

Thank you, captain.

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