I grew up in Florida with Bahá’ís parents and siblings. My twin and I wore thick glasses and were shy into our early teens. We stood out from others and were obvious targets for bullies in school. My close friends were not Bahá’ís, but still respected and even appreciated my religious beliefs. I did not tell others my religion because I thought it would make me a bigger target. I witnessed a Christian classmate bullied many times for refusing drugs or alcohol for religious reasons.
Middle school was particularly tough for me. I was bullied almost daily, and it occasionally became physical. I knew the Bahá’í principles said we should love our fellow man, so I really didn’t understand why someone would go out of their way to make someone else’s life more difficult. I learned to be very aware of my surroundings, avoid unnecessary attention, and get a teacher involved if I felt it was necessary.
Bullies tried to appear strong and superior by picking on those they perceived to be weak, but I sensed, under the surface, that they were lost and unhappy. In contrast, I might have looked weak, but I felt a sense of self-assurance and an understanding of the world due to growing up with the Bahá’í principles.