By: Kendi K.

Knowing what a bully is seems like an obvious thing. A bully is someone who’s mean, someone who calls you names or hurts you physically. All of that is true, but sometimes bullies are more than that. Sometimes the bully can be someone you’re friends with, or maybe, it could be you, and you don’t even know it.

When I was in 5th grade I couldn’t understand why kids at school didn’t like my best friend, who we’ll call Nancy. She was funny, nice, and fun to be around, but one day during lunch I finally understood why.

“It smells like trash in here.” a girl at the end of the table said and wrinkled her nose.

“Well it’s probably you.” Nancy said with a laugh then quickly added the words, “Just kidding.”

The girl looked so hurt and all I could do was sit there with my mouth hanging open. I’d never noticed the subtle ways Nancy was mean to others. She would say something hurtful then add “just kidding” at the end, as if that was going to make up for it. For days after that I noticed how often she’d say something mean, laugh, then say she was just kidding.

The truth is, just kidding, just hurts. Adding the words “just kidding” is only what bullies say so that if you tell them that wasn’t nice, they can say you’re overreacting. Think about it for a second, has anyone ever said something mean that made you sad or even angry, but when they said just kidding did you feel silly for get so worked up? That’s exactly what they want to happen, but you have to know that it’s okay to tell them that’s not cool. All you have to say is “just kidding, just hurts”.

Maybe you think it’s okay to say something mean and add just kidding. I know I used to. I thought it didn’t matter, I thought my words had no affect on others if I added “just kidding”. But that day at lunch when I saw the hurt expression on the girl’s face after what Nancy said, I realized that my words made people felt a certain way, and it was my choice on whether they felt good or bad about themselves. If someone were to look you in your eyes and tell say you’re ugly, wouldn’t that hurt? Saying just kidding won’t suddenly make their words hurt less.

You don’t have to unfriend someone for using the just kidding line, but you should let them know that it’s not right. If you are the one using that line, it can be hard to break the bad habit. One way to constantly remind yourself is to write the words “just kidding just hurts” on a piece of paper and hang it on your bathroom mirror or bedroom door, you can even set the words as the background on your phone. Remember, bullying can show itself in many forms, online, with words, physical contact, but always remind yourself, just kidding just hurts.

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