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December 16, 2012


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.

Family 78

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

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  1. From Facebook:

    Gun control + prayers= prevention and responses, but does not answer the question as to why …. Here’s an eye opening article from a young man who almost crossed that line himself and WHY. Seems that we need to “get this part” as step 1. Not only does it allow us to imagine for a moment, the world he sees via his pain filled lens, additionally he offers us concrete, everyday advice- and- he’s right.

    There is something WE (you and me), we can do as a value added prevention measures that supplement stricter gun control legislation and post mortem prayers for the victims and their loved ones…. We can see the cruelty around us and choose not to be a part of it- we can follow thru on reporting it, to protect kids who are bullied. We can check in with our own kid’s attitudes -and teach our kids not to bully, not to participate, to report and take a stand against it among their own peer groups. We can ensure it’s reported immediately and follow up on it. (Lots of bully programs at schools these days).

    We grew up with the big MYOB rule, except turning a blind eye to cruelty to others is not a matter of social appropriateness- by doing nothing, we are all enablers, allowing the fire of hatred, pain and calculated retribution to fester- this physic monster projects his pain and rage out in our neighbourhoods, upon our children and our loved ones.

    This article walks us thru the protracted trajectory of one man’s cumulated pain. Graham encourages us to wake up and take action in the here and now in our own schools, neighbourhoods and communities. Mr. White, having been there and now healed of his pain, calls out to us in no uncertain terms. Pay attention; stand up for, individually and collectively, one unified stand, one certain commitment- stop the bullying. Make the calls that need to be made, follow thru and SHOW UP FOR THESE KIDS!

    Best article I have read on this subject over the days… Marie

  2. From a classmate who prefers to remain anonymous:

    Graham I am so blessed to know you. I am humbled by you mentioning me in this Article.This is truly my best Christmas gift ever. It brought me to my knees. There were so many nights I was haunted by this in middle school and to read this tribute to your mother and honoring your father and the bullies as far as their own challenges was breathtaking. You are the remarkable person.

  3. Thank you for having the courage and compassion to share this. The message is strong and one that I hope we can learn from this tragedy – to find ways to be an understanding accepting society of everyone, to teach our children compassion and love, to share our love with those that need and deserve that love. Thank you.

    • You’re very welcome Gladys. It’s a lot to simply share this story so that people know to call when they hear someone even hint that they’re thinking of hurting someone like this. In every story I’ve heard someone always knew.

      Please share this with the people in your network and your local media where you can.

  4. Amy permalink

    As a mom, this very thoughtful response to the madness was very helpful. It gives me hope. I am raising 2 boys, luckily, we do not have these issues. I wish that parents who had a similar situation could read this. What a success story. Keep telling your story. Thank you.

    • Thank you Amy. They’ll read it if we share this awareness with them.

      Please share this with the people in your network and your local media where you can.

  5. Hi Graham, that’s a very touching article. I completely agree with you that the need to be loved must be addressed in helping others with their problems. We don’t live in a society of monsters. Maybe people who have gone the wrong way, or taken drastic action out of desperation. I don’t think the solution is to lock more people up. It’s important to understand the roots of the problem, and take preemptive measures.

    It’s dear to my heart helping people understand that they have choice. We don’t have to be defined by our past. I am happy to know that you are working toward this cause; I will be as well. It’s amazing what a little bit of love and understanding can do.

  6. Anonymous permalink

    I have such a son (he is 14)…and I am a single mom…no doubt his pain and subsequent anger has to do with the fact that hhis dad left and doesn’t want anything to do with him. How does a child deal with that abandonment issue??

    • Softness and sympathy are no more helpful than cruelty to a young man who is angry. The reality is that life isn’t fair – period. Being a grown up involves dealing with the fact that life is sometimes hard.

      My mantra has been, “It’s not how you act when things are easy that says much about the person you are, it’s what you choose when things are hard that defines you.”

      Loving, but firm. Get professional help if need be, but the longer a young man remains angry the more dangerous that festering emotion makes him.

      It’s very unfair to the single mother, but you in essence have to “man up” and clearly let him know that you understand his frustration, but pissy attitudes are never acceptable. You are the leader in your household and if he can’t find a way to make life work for him in that environment you must find one he can be successful in.

      That’s NOT a threat, that’s the truth in love because you refuse to fail him by leaving him in an environment that doesn’t support his success. I’ve dealt with 13 year olds, even 7 year olds who have threatened their single moms with knives, and MEANT it!!! It’s serious, and you must be too.

      I feel for you, this should be a fathers role. I’m fortunate that I had a few very firm men in my life at different times that literally took me to the wall. It doesn’t take that for everyone, but I can tell you more than once I just laughed in my mom’s face when she threatened me.

      If you don’t feel 100% in control of the situation or conversation, get professional support. As we’ve seen, these things can become deadly serious.

      Loving but firm. “It feels awful, but it saves lives” even if its just saving him from a life of blame and anger.

  7. Su Stacey permalink

    Thank you for sharing your story – I’ve always believed love, acceptance & forgiveness; are what is needed to prevent or in too many cases heal from tragic situations. The book by Neale Donald Wallasch The Little Soul & the Sun is a great kids book for all ages on forgiveness… God Bless you & may you touch many others.

    • Thank you Su,

      To be clear, the firm boundaries that need to be implemented for these types of individuals to be successful are dramatic. Most people, and certainly most mothers are uncomfortable with this – but we’ve seen how horrific the alternatives can be.

      Even programs like Beyond Scared Straight aren’t enough to connect to the psyche of the toughest of these little geniuses, but the resulting changed lives and reduction or elimination of medication can be profound.

  8. Good evening Graham,

    Thank YOU for your bravery, courage, and vulnerability to be seen by others with your share. I like many was severely bullied for 6 years during elementary school (gr. 3 – 8). So I can relate 100% to your share. I do a happy dance that you are now thriving above it all.

    I also find it very interesting that you live with a form of aspergers. With my ‘day job’ I work with adults living with developmental disabilities in the community. One of them has aspergers. Before this, I have worked in a school with children all living with disabilities of all kinds.

    I recently figured out my purpose of wanting no woman or girl to be left alone feeling that she’s not beautiful, powerful, or creative because of something that was said or done to her in her past by others. Hence me having my own businesses as well, one for women and one for girls.

    I agree with your message about what to do…….empower our youth to love themselves and respect themselves where they are now in life. To treat others with kindness, to accept all others regardless of their ability. I can remember working at a group home with children living with sever autism, and we were at a near by park. Children were already playing there and the parents called their kids away. I so wanted to yell out “You can’t catch autism!”…….

    • Good for you! Imagine this world if each of us lifted just two people up from their pain and gave them the belief that they were loveable!

  9. Sarah permalink

    I was bullied as a teenager too. I never got to the point of actually wanting to do anything to my bullies but I had incredibly supportive parents who taught me that while what I was going through was horrible, life isn’t fair and I had to take responsibility for my reactions to the bad things that other people did. Even with this, I occassionally wondered what it would feel like if they were to get their due. Thank you for helping to shed the light on this problem!

    • You had amazing parents Sarah. Thank you for sharing that. Very well said. Life isn’t fair, but we have the ability to create a pretty amazing one if we work at it.

  10. S. Nicoletta Rogers permalink

    Thank you for this powerful and personal sharing!

    I know homocidal/suicidal rage! I knew I needed help when my oldest daughter was three and my second a new baby and I had visions of beating my three-year-old to a pulp; I was so incredibly “triggered” by her! That was 22 years ago and I have been “working” at this ever since!

    I’d like to recommend MY favourite author of parenting books, Aletha Solter;

    ~ Nicoletta

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