Courage Under Fire: Facing Up to the School Bully

Note: this is a follow-up the last week’s article, 3 Words That Forever Changed a Deaf Boy’s Life.

After hearing those three words, life as I knew it was never the same. It put me directly in the path of discovering courage I never knew I had. And I learned that the opportunity to overcome adversity with this kind of courage sometimes strikes when we least expect it….

A week after Mrs. Jordan belted out THAT’S RIGHT STEPHEN!, I was out on the playground during lunch recess. It was a beautiful spring day. Skies were clear and a warm, gentle breeze was blowing across the landscape. I always loved the spring. It always put me in a good mood. It felt as if the warm spring breeze caressed my face, giving me the feeling that I was being taken care of.

Ten minutes into lunch recess I saw David, the class bully sauntering towards me. He walked with a cocky swagger, his lips pursed like Elvis Presley. It was typical of an undefeated bully in those days. Up to that point, he had literally beaten up everyone else in the whole school, except for me. Not that I was tough or anything but he left me alone for some reason.

Oh, no, my time has come, I thought. My body went rigid with tension. I didn’t dare move. With steady eyes, I watched him approach me.

My eyes did a quick dart around – the other kids were fast forming a circle around me like a bunch of spectators at Madison Square Garden. They were hungry for some action. They left just enough room for David to make his grand entrance into the circle.

As soon as he was in, the circle closed up immediately. It was almost as if the other kids didn’t want to let either of us to get away without first shedding some blood.

My heart quickened with each step he made towards me. I licked my lips. I had no clue what I was going to do or say.

Unexpected Courage

I slowly turned my head to face the bully. He was still on his way with a sneer on his face.

Almost as if some unseen force took over, I suddenly shoved my right palm upward, like a traffic policeman.

Thrown off guard, the bully slowed to a crawl.

I licked my lips some more.

Back in those days, I wore a hearing aid box that was harnessed by a strap that wrapped around my chest. It was an albatross that shouldered the hearing box in place. There were two hearing aid cords that ran from the hearing aid box up to both ears. Although the box was underneath my shirt, its rectangular shape stuck out like a sore thumb. It looked as if I had just stepped off a spaceship.

In the next instant my life was forever changed.

Dripping with sarcasm, I pointed to my chest and said, “David, do you see this hearing aid box? “

The bully snickered some more and cackled like the cruel witch in “The Wizard of Oz.” As he was doing that, his eyes briefly flickered. No one else noticed it but I did.

It gave me a little more courage.

I raised my voice another notch and told him, “IF YOU PUNCH THIS BOX, IT’LL BLOW UP THE WHOLE SCHOOL!” My hands clapped like thunder, startling the bully.

His face instantly turned paper white with widening eyes. He slowly took one step back and then another and then another. Out of the corner of my eye, I couldn’t help notice that the circle was once again opening up behind him.

Then he did something that forever ruined his rough and tumble image.

He ran home as fast as his legs would carry him!

I folded my arms across my chest and triumphantly watched the figure of David grow smaller and smaller. Then I looked around at the other kids – they were laughing, clapping and whooping. Others were vigorously rubbing their eyes in disbelief.

Wow! Did I really defeat the bully? I had just whipped him without laying a hand on him! Man, how was that possible?

A Lasting Change

Well, would you believe I became the most popular kid in the whole school after that? My confidence soared like never before. All of a sudden everyone wanted to be my friend.

Sometimes we find out that we have courage when we’re tested. We never want to be tested like this because when we think about it, it’s very scary but it does happen and we’re all stronger because of the adversial experience.

The story illustrates the power of how someone else can make a difference in our lives. My fifth grade teacher told me years later that she had no idea how much of an impact she made on my life in her classroom the week before the bully incident.

If she hadn’t called on me and thundered THAT’S RIGHT STEPHEN!, the bully might have beaten me to a bloody pulp.

Who knows?

About the Author of this Post: Help and support Stephen by subscribing to his blog at Adversity University to receive inspiring articles about the power of achieving the impossible, overcoming and dealing with adversity in addition to some of the most revealing, in-depth “Stephen Hopson Interviews” of authentic bloggers. He is a former award-winning Wall Street stockbroker turned motivational speaker, author and the first deaf pilot in the world to earn an instrument rating in 2006. Read more about Stephen here.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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