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My son – bullied as a high school freshman at age 14 – vanquished his bullies verbally, physically, and socially after taking the Gracie Bullyproof course. Now a high school senior and jiu jitsu blue belt, he daily comes between bullies and their prey, choosing to ride the bus when he could drive.
He conquered the bully, but not the hate that grows like an invasive weed enriched by feelings of humiliation, fear, helplessness, and worthlessness that the bullies heaped on him and those for whom he cares. While I spoke to him about it at the time, I wasn’t motivated to follow-up and up and up, until I watched “To this day.”
Koyczan’s video is rapidly becoming a phenomenon, a candle in the global window that has lit the way for victims to find unity and former bullies to repent and seek redemption, the poet says.
“It’s amazing to me how common [bullying] is and that it’s not just the victims but the bullies who come up to me to talk,” Koyczan says. “I believe the bullies must be forgiven. That’s how we heal.”
He believes in forgiveness for two reasons: “The very first e-mail I ever got when e-mail first began was from a tormentor of my youth. A long letter asking for forgiveness and detailing every incident and explaining what was going on in his life and how what he was doing to me really had nothing to do with me at all.”
“It was so meaningful that just talking about it gives me goose bumps right now,” he says. “Also, I became a bully myself at about 14 or 15 when we moved and I thought it was a chance to reinvent myself.”
Koyczan recounted the feeling of sitting before the principal beside his grandmother and hearing the man say to her, “Your grandson is a bully.” He says, “I became the thing I hated.”
He also explains what it was about his grandmother’s parenting that raised him up and helped him make the course correction he needed at 15: “You always felt safe around her. She built up that trust. That’s hard to do.”
“The news and everything we see is so dark, there needs to be a light,” he explains. “Parents need to keep the lines of communication open. We need to keep a light shining. There are always people out there who will try and dampen that light.”
What Koyczan is doing with this video is what he asks us as parents, teachers and friends to emulate by providing a beacon that shines on our ability to love and forgive and in the process, blinds us to hate.