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If you don’t recognize the boys in the picture, two are of the students who attacked their peers at Columbine High School and the third is a teenager just like them that my mother had the courage to step in to prevented a similar outcome.



From the time I was 13 years old, I used to hope that my parents would die and I would get to go live and be raised by my aunt and uncle. By the time I was 17 this feeling had grown into a full-blown seething hatred. Because I was finally big enough to consider what I could do personally, I began to plan what I would do to show my father the incredible pain I felt.  I was fantasizing about revenge against a parent. I was filled with the kind of hate and calculated rage that had me planning not just the death of my father, but a way to inflict the greatest psychic pain I could in my revenge on him for the injustices I believed he had visited on me.

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It was more than just my father that created the pain, it was the fact that the boys I went to school with humiliated me during class and bullies chased me down and beat me up every day before and after school. Most of the bullies simply wanted the satisfaction of hitting me a couple times and making me cry, but there were some that really wanted to hurt me. They would take it out on my face and wouldn’t stop punching me in the head until their knuckles were too sore to continue.

Running for me wasn’t a sport, it was survival. I would keep an eye out for the dozen or so bullies that used to hunt for me in packs before and after school. Sometimes they were alone, but most often they would look for me in groups.

If you’ve ever watched lions hunting in a pack you’ll get a good idea of what it’s like and the feeling if panic being hunted creates. I was a better long distance runner than all except one of the bullies (and of course he HAD to be the cruelest…), but many of them could out-sprint me. Imagine having to measure out your life in meters (yards) every day on the way to and from school. Just like an animal I would have to keep a constant eye out for safe places – like the library and a few stores where I knew the staff that I could escape to.

I managed to avoid a bad beating from bullies one time by jumping into a man-made fishing pond and swimming across. When I finally made it home I had blood on my face from the first few punches they managed, but what my father reacted to when was the fact that my clothes were soaking wet. Now I’m sure that sounds horrible to read, but the truth is that victims of bullying are embarrassed by what’s happening to us and we don’t tell our parents or teachers everything that’s going on.

I would think, “What’s he going to do? Call all their parents and make them apologize to me? THEN what?!!! I’ll just get it TWICE as bad the next time they catch me!” So my dad really didn’t know what was happening, he just saw the wet clothes that I couldn’t hide.

I probably could have handled everything I’ve described so far, but there’s a pain for a young man far worse than being physically or verbally abused – nothing is more painful to the psyche of a young person than total romantic rejection of the opposite gender.



The growing realization that no one understood me, particularly my parents – the two people I was desperate to have love and accept me was agonizing. But worse than the fact that my parents didn’t “get me” were my awkward attempts to date. After receiving rejection after rejection I became convinced that no one was EVER going to love me and that I was going to spend the rest of my life – alone.

It’s this mental anguish that creates the breeding ground for deviant homicidal, suicidal and sexual fantasies in boys: “If no one will ever freely give me the love and understanding I need, I will find a way to TAKE IT!!!”

(This is what I believe is behind the majority of all of the worst crimes against women and children by men).

I watched the aftermath of the Columbine shooting with personal interest. I had fantasized many times about doing something to push my pain back on my peers who had been so cruel to me. The psychological expert referred to the shooters as “Failed Joiners”, meaning they desperately WANTED to be accepted, but lacked the social skill to do so.

What wasn’t understood about me when I was younger was that I had ADHD combined with Aspergers (think “Data” from Star Trek, Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory” or Russell Crowe’s character in “A Beautiful Mind”). This made me intellectually gifted, but left me completely lacking in social skills.

My hatred and anger were the result of pain I experienced in my failure to connect with my father, my peers and particularly girls. The fault wasn’t theirs, nor was it mine. It was a tragic result of a lack of awareness on the part of anyone who could have helped, until one day my mom realized if she didn’t have the courage to say something a tragedy might unfold.

When these tragedies are thwarted, the individual who speaks up most often turns out to be a courageous and loving mom (occasionally a wife or girlfriend). I believe this is because women’s intuition and emotional sensitivity recognize this kind of psychic pain and knows the difference between a young man in pain and a guy just being “macho”. It’s not a stretch to say that the call my mom made may have saved the lives of both my father and myself.


I hope that my story and unique perspective can empower you with the knowledge of something more than prayer you can offer.

I was picked on, rejected and unloved because frankly I was an odd kid. It wasn’t my father’s fault or even the fault of the bullies that created the “monster” that had begun festering in my mind – it was a system that wasn’t designed to recognize or provide the specialized solutions that could have helped.

– If you have a typical child, raise them to be compassionate towards those who are less lovable. (My classmates Sherri H. and Polly M. were two magnificent examples of this in my life. They were firm, but fair when dealing with me. All through those painful years they never once made me feel rejected the way other classmates did. You can’t imagine my gratitude for that).

– Teach your children to stand up for the kids who are picked on. It’s not their job to be the outcasts friend necessarily, but no one should stand by and permit others to physically or verbally abuse them. At a minimum our child should feel comfortable telling us what happened and trust us to make it right.

My 11 year old asked me to let you know this next part is REALLY important.

Our child is risking their social survival by confiding in us about the bullying. We have to prove to them that we will settle for nothing less than the bullying stopped and that everyone, including our child is safe. It means they see us continue to follow through until that bullied child is protected and is getting help if needed.

That’s FAR different from just calling the school and thinking we’ve done our job. It’s a HUGE risk for our child to get involved. As adults, we need to step up and become magnificent leaders who won’t stop until our child sees “right” prevail. If they trust is with this information we must be their champion and ensure the bullying ends, removing them from the school if no other option works.

– If you have a socially challenged child, get them the help they require. My mom finally got me into counseling and that along with other circumstances created an opportunity for me to accept, love and forgive myself, my father and the bullies.

– If you believe your child (or someone you know) is at risk of homicidal or suicidal behavior you MUST call for professional intervention. Call 911 if you don’t know how to look up the specific services in your area.



The parents of these young men almost always turn out to be caring people who didn’t have the tools to understand their sons. This was true in my case. My perception of my father was grossly inaccurate – he was a good and loving man who struggled enormously to understand me.

I have a very close relationship with him today and as I write this, he and my mother are out having an early Christmas together with us.

I have also completely forgiven my classmates and the bullies.  Those guys who used to beat me up? Well, I spent 4 years lifting weights and at 6’4″ and 230 lbs I found a sense of peace and confidence in my ability to look out for myself. 😉

I realized that their anger and pain came from the same place as mine – the lack of a loving connection with their fathers, and I forgave them too. In fact, one night at the bar in my early 20’s I was walking across the room when one of them fell over himself trying to get out of my way. I helped him up and asked him what was wrong.

“I – I – I…thought you were going to …beat me up!” he stammered.

Ironically, I didn’t even remember him as one of the bullies because there had been so many guys more cruel than he had apparently been.



Awkward individuals experience a pain and suffering that most people can’t understand. Telling them to “choose” to be different doesn’t work and ultimately fills them with rage at those who become frustrated with their inability to “fit in” or “succeed”.

We need to love them enough to recognize their solutions to success may be far more complex than yours or mine.

Most importantly, if you hear even a hint that they have homicidal or suicidal fantasies DON’T WAIT, pick up the phone and call the authorities – because you care enough to do what’s uncomfortable.

My mom did, and I’m sure it saved lives. She called a counselor, but had it been appropriate I have no doubt she would have called the police.

Today I’m a father of a son (and three daughters). He has challenges, but more importantly he has a father who loves and understands him. My father did the best that he could with what he knew at the time. I don’t think I could have done nearly as well as he did under the same circumstances. Today we know better, so we CAN do better – we MUST do better.

I know what will make a difference for my son and I my greatest wish is that this makes a difference for you in finding understanding, forgiveness and the knowledge of what you can do to stop these kinds of tragedies before they occur.

Graham White