What to do when a friend starts bullying you

fQ7jlvzgzVoc asks: I’m worried about one of my classmates, I’m not gonna say her real name so I’ll just write Amy. Amy and I were really good friends back in primary school. But one way or another, we drifted apart when we entered middle school. I started to hang out with the Artsy types and she hung out with the math whiz team (since she’s really good in math). Of course, we still hung out sometimes but not as much as we use too. So here’s the problem, when we started high school, Amy began to hang out with the bad kids. And I mean ‘bad’ bad. They bully other kids, they always say curse words and they always cut class. I was really worried that they will change sweet, innocent Amy and I was right! Amy started to act like a gangster when summer ended last year. I tried talking to her, but she just swore and told me to leave her alone. Now, I’m a victim of being bullied by her too. Please give me some advice so I can get the kind and gentle old Amy back before it’s too late.

Hi fQ7jlvzgzVoc –


Before I start to answer your question, I have one for you – do you know what the name Amy actually means? Funny you picked it – it means Friend!


I think you’re living one of the biggest fears any of us ever has, that the person we love and trust most turns against us. This starts when we’re very young, when we do something unwittingly bothersome to an adult we love and trust, who suddenly turns furious on us. “Look Mommy, I drew a picture for you on the living room wall!” “Hi Daddy, isn’t it funny that I pooped in your car?!” Or, on my side, “Hey, I know what you want right now – you want me to wake you up by biting you in the leg as hard as I can!”   And suddenly, the person we’re expecting to be happy with us is suddenly yelling and raging and scaring the daylights out of us.


What you’re experiencing is less sudden, but maybe even more painful. This was your great friend, and now she’s acting like an enemy.


I really have two thoughts on this. One is that she’s being a bully, and bullies act as bullies, almost always, because they’re feeling bad about themselves. I don’t know what is going on with her – is she jealous of you, does she have some tough things going on at home, is she just having a rough time being a teenager and making friends? – but whatever it is, the problem is almost certainly in her sense of self-worth. So could you try to reach out? Could you give her a call? Invite her out to a movie? Try to be more like the friends you’ve been?


But my second thought is, if that doesn’t work, then you kind of need to give up. She might just need to live through some tough times. We can certainly hope that she gets through them as easily as possible, but one of the toughest lessons any of us ever learns is that none of us can truly save anyone, unless they want to be saved. It’s just not possible. So if she’s insisting on hanging with a gangster crowd and pushing other people (like you) away, and maybe doing self-destructive things, then that’s just what she’s going to do.


And if that’s the case, then your real job is to protect yourself. If she starts bullying you again, just turn and talk right back to her, in her face. Something along the lines of “You know I want to be your friend. It’s what I’ve always wanted from you. I miss you and I’ll always love you. But I’m not putting up with one bit of this garbage. I don’t know what’s going on in your head, but it’s not my fault. So if you’re not going to be my friend, then just get away from me. Leave me alone. And grow up! And once you’ve gone through whatever in the world you’re doing, give me a call.” Now that’s strong, but still pretty nice. You’re leaving a lot of doors and windows open for her.


But if she tries something on you again, then I’d say to completely raise hell. You don’t have to hit her (in fact, I’d recommend you don’t, as then her friends could argue that you started a fight), but just yell, right in her face. “I TOLD YOU TO LEAVE ME ALONE! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU? GET OUT OF MY FACE!” What it will do is very sad – it will really embarrass her, shame her. Which none of us want. But it should work to keep her from bothering you. In fact, and here’s a very weird thought about human nature, it might even make her want to be your friend again! Like the tough kids she thinks she needs to hang around now, you’ll have shown you have the strength she feels she lacks. So you’ll be the toughest gangster around, just by owning your right to not be bullied!


fQ7jlvzgzVoc, there’s no question, this is difficult. I know you don’t want to have to do this. You want to take care of her and help her. And of course, if that’s possible, that’s the best thing to do.


But if not, you really need to be good to yourself first.


Have you ever ridden on an airplane? I haven’t, but I always hear about the flight attendants saying that, if the oxygen masks drop, you need to put yours on yourself first, before you help anyone else with theirs. Well, I’m kind of saying the same thing. You can try to help her, but make sure your mask is securely fastened.


And hopefully this turbulence will end soon, and you and Amy can happily fly together into the dawn of a beautiful new day.


All my best,




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