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1. Nick, you have personally been bullied, especially once you started attending public school in Australia. You say you were a bully’s dream because you were born without arms or legs—in other words you were totally defenseless. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience?
I think a lot of us feel defenseless against bullying and I definitely felt defenseless because I didn’t believe I had any self-worth and I felt alone. I was the only one with no arms and no legs, and I was also the first disabled person in the public schools in Australia. It was really hard because I couldn’t get away from it, and my parents just said to ignore it. And although I couldn’t ignore it, they did great at giving me love and planting seeds of love in me.
2. At the age of 10 you contemplated committing suicide because you didn’t know if you’d ever be able to live a productive life. What role did bullying play in that attempt?
The role that bullying played in my suicide attempt was that I felt like I had no hope. All the negative thoughts in me were planted there by bullies, who were putting me down, and I felt worthless, hopeless, and helpless. When you don’t see a bright future ahead and you don’t know who you are or you don’t know your purpose or your destiny, bullying sucks all the life out of you and takes away your hope.
3. What did your parents do to help you deal with bullies? Did they give you any advice that was helpful?
My parents gave me love and a refuge to come home to. They encouraged me and told me that God loves me and to not worry about other people thought of me. No matter what was going on, I knew I could always come home to a home of love and encouragement. My parents encouraged me to excel in the things that I was good at, so it gave me confidence as well. When I couldn’t do something that everyone else was doing, I could actually remember that I was the best at mathematics.
4. You travel the world as an international motivational speaker, and you say that teens in every town in every country tell you bullying is a major concern. What do you think is driving this bullying epidemic?
I think when the men fall in the family, the families fall. When the families fall, then no teenagers are listening to any adults because you can see the brokenness in everyone’s life. They don’t have any role models wanting to give them advice and they don’t have any role models who can speak into the values of family, character, or integrity.
5. In your book Stand Strong you help teens develop a bully defense system, but it starts from the inside out. What are some things students can do to develop this bully defense system?
To know your self-worth is the greatest thing. When you know who you are, you don’t get rocked by other people’s negative comments. I’m helping students understand their value and importance, and to know everyone has insecurities. When you understand that, you understand that bullies themselves are often hurt or are being abused at home (though yes, there is a small percentage who just do it for fun).
6. You encourage teens to build a strong and secure identity and self-worth . . . but how do they do that at an age when they’re trying to figure out who they are?
My message to students is you’re unique. There will never be another you, and you’re beautiful just the way you are. Your value isn’t determined by how smart you are or how popular you are, or anything like that. I want everyone to understand the truth that we are the ones who are our biggest encouragers or discouragers. Don’t let those negative things grow roots, because if those lies take root and grow, they grow more lies. But love grows love. And self-belief grows a belief in others. It’s getting a hold on what you listen to and what you let stay in your heart and echo in your mind. Always look around and see that everyone is broken, everyone has pain, and we all need a friend. Sometimes you have to be a true friend to find one.
7. Why is it important to have strong values to help stand up to bullies? How can parents help instill these values in their kids?
Many people say they want to change the world, but I don’t believe them unless they stand up for someone else in their school or their street. I’m not saying to put your face in front of a punch, but it is important to stand up, because that’s how you can communicate love. Standing by the victim of the bully helps the bully to also understand that victim isn’t alone, they’ve got friends. Parents, then, need to put that value in their home life and in their marriage. The best way to show my son I love him is to show him how much I love his mum, and to show him what respect is, to know what honor is.
8. You tell students, “Don’t be a by-stander, be a person on stand-by.” What do you mean by this?
What I mean by don’t be a by-stander, but be a person on stand-by, is to not just accept that bullying happens every day. In the helplessness you feel and the reason for all the bullying, you can make a difference! Be a friend to someone who has no friends. Pray about how you can be a light in a dark place. You don’t know which victim of a bully is contemplating suicide and they just wish they had a listening ear to let them know they’re not alone, and you might actually save someone’s life by doing that.
9. Your son Kiyoshi just turned one. Has becoming a father made this message even more vital to your ministry? What do you wish for the world that he’ll encounter as he gets older?
Becoming a father has made this message even more vital to my ministry because I want to share with the next generation what I’m going to share with him about the passion we need to have for every single soul that walks by us. I hope that as he gets older he encounters the good and the bad of the world, so he can pray how he can be part of the good. I want him to know what cancer is, what death is, so he can understand that today is a gift. I want him to know what an orphanage is, so that at the right age, he can be a brother to someone who has no brother. It’s basically the message to be a miracle to someone who needs a miracle, instead of waiting for ours. God has called us, all Christians, to be the ones in the schools in this country to eradicate bullying and to say “no more.”
NICK VUJICIC is a New York Times best-selling author, motivational speaker, and the director of the nonprofit organization, Life Without Limbs. Nick has become a great inspiration to people around the world, regularly speaking to large crowds about overcoming obstacles and achieving dreams. His YouTube videos have been viewed by millions of people. A longtime resident of Australia, he now lives in southern California with his wife, Kanae, and their son, Kiyoshi. Nick’s books include Stand Strong, Unstoppable, Life Without Limits, and Limitless. Visit his website at www.LifeWithoutLimbs.org.