View from the Edge

Posted on: 10/16/18 3:30 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Some of you might have caught the exclusive excerpt of my new book I posted on our parents site last week. The following is ANOTHER excerpt from the first chapter of my brand new book, The Bullying Breakthrough, releasing this month…  the first book where I finally tell my story…

Chapter 1: View from the Edge

“Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

We’ve all heard it. We all had teachers who reiterated it. “…word will never hurt me.”

Complete foolishness.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I probably don’t even need to give you thirteen reasons why.

Anyone who has been mocked or victimized will tell you nothing is more crushing or more demoralizing. Speaking completely candidly, I’d rather get beaten senseless than become the victim of public humiliation—and sadly, I’ve been there.

That’s the intriguing thing about bullying. I’ve read countless articles and studies, heard theories from known psychologists. I’ve attended assemblies and conferences about bullying. . . almost always by someone who hasn’t been bullied.

They don’t know.

They really don’t.

I grew up five minutes from the American River Parkway, a beautiful recreation area where the American River glides 120 miles from the Sierra Nevada Mountains down to the Sacramento River. One of the trails we took as kids would bring us to the edge of a cliff 120 feet high overlooking the north side of the river. Sacramento residents call it “The Bluffs.” A romantic lookout for many, but for me, a location where I would contemplate taking my own life.

When I was sixteen years old I stood at the edge of that cliff staring down at the rocks below.

I can’t tell you what was unique about this particular day. I honestly had experienced hundreds of days like this, especially years prior in middle school, being mocked, pushed around, and demoralized while my classmates looked on with laughter or passive approval.

I don’t blame them. You had only three choices: laugh, ignore, or say something. Those who spoke up would only be next. . .so everyone chose either laughter or silence. Literally everyone.

No one every spoke up.

I probably couldn’t have put words to what I was feeling standing on that ledge: loneliness, hurt. . .a longing for someone who understood? Most of the people in my life didn’t even know what went on at my school every day. It’s not their fault; I never really shared the experiences. If I did, I most likely wouldn’t have even used the word bullying, because in my mind bullying was a big kid cornering a little kid and stealing his lunch money. My aggressors weren’t big kids. They weren’t even all male. My aggressors came in all shapes and sizes. But what I was experiencing was actually textbook bullying.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines bullying as“any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated.”

“Perceived power imbalance”—a good word choice. Kids don’t have a positive concept of “self,” so they try to make themselves feel better by hurling verbal onslaughts at others. That’s an accurate description of what my peers did to me each day. I was an easy target, so I became a stepping-stone others used to raise themselves up so they could feel more powerful.

“Repeated multiple times”—also accurate. For me it was daily in middle school, at least weekly in high school. Certain environments seemed to foster it more than others, none more so than PE class.

That particular day began with gym class, physical education, or PE as our school called it. PE is a cruel requirement for nonathletes, something the physically fit will never understand. PE is where the weak get intimidated by the strong. PE is where small boys get hung by their underwear or slapped in the back of the legs while bystanders laugh hysterically.

That morning in PE a popular kid had said something cruel. I don’t remember the exact exchange, but knowing me, I probably retaliated with a quick verbal jab. I had developed a quick wit over the years. I had plenty of experience defending myself.

But this kid wasn’t going to tolerate any banter. He hit me hard in the jaw. I can still hear the cackles from the crowd and feel the stares of those who quickly circled around. Funny, I don’t recall the physical pain of the hit.

More words were exchanged. I had two choices: fight or back down. I chose back down.

Social suicide.

Names were called—cruel names that are difficult even to put into print.

“Pu**y!”

“Fag!”

I was neither, but it didn’t matter.

Threats were made. “You’d better watch your back!”

He meant it. And he was right. This altercation had triggered a social seismic shift, and there were aftershocks. You see, once someone is publicly humiliated, the victim bears an invisible Kick Me sign on his back.For the rest of the day I endured shoves, jeers, and cruel whispers from kids I had never even met. Other kids with low self-esteem jumped on the opportunity to step up a notch on the social ladder by lowering someone else a rung.

I don’t know why this particular day pushed me over the tipping point, since I had experienced many other days like it. Regardless, six hours after the original jab, I stood at the edge of the cliff looking down at the rocks.

Should I jump?

I wanted to jump. I really wanted to, honestly, for selfish reasons.

I’ll show them.

They’ll regret everything they ever said!


Author Josh McDowell calls The Bullying Breakthrough “Jonathan’s most vulnerable and insightful book yet! An eye-opening peek into the world of bullying today and what we can actually do to prevent it.”

Social researcher Shaunti Feldhahn claims this is “Jonathan’s most important book so far,” describing it as “an essential guide to preventing and stopping bullying behaviors.”

The Bullying Breakthrough is available for PRE-ORDER on Amazon right now and will be releasing this month! Order your copy now!

2 Replies to “View from the Edge”

  1. I will definitely get this book. I was bullied by my stepsister for 5 years. I know what it is like. Home was safe place for you Jonathan but for me it was hell. I remember the fear in the pit of my stomach each afternoon when I had to go home. I was too scared to tell my dad about it because I feared it would only get worse. When I reached out to our school psychologist about it, she failed me. It taught me to be an aggressive, angry person, because attack is the best defense and to NEVER show any sign of weakness. It happened so many years ago. I am forty now and still the Lord is setting me free from the consequences of that, and healing the scars. I am only now learning that the Lord fights for me, and that aggression and anger is not the way to go. I sure hope you addressed the passage in Scripture teaching us to turn the other cheek in Matthew? I would love to know how you would apply that to situations such as this because to this day I can barely read that part. Timely book, Jonathan thank you for writing it.

    1. Thanks Jana, I appreciate you sharing your story. Heartbreaking. I’m so sorry home wasn’t safe. And good question about “turning the other cheek.” When Jesus was talking to people about turning the other cheek he was talking to people who were exploiting the law for their own good. Jesus spoke to them in hyperbole about not only turning the other cheek, but also giving them your jacket if they take their shirt. Jesus was confronting the hypocrites who didn’t show love and teaching them how far love needs to extend. Of course Jesus demonstrated this by giving his own life to people who didn’t deserve it. Does this mean that a 12-year-old girl who is being beat up by bullies can’t defend herself. Not at all. Yes, he wants us all to love our enemies, but he isn’t forbidding self defense. When my son was being physically assaulted at school for no reason, I told him to absolutely defend himself. I tell that whole story in the book. Hope that helps just a little.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *