One of the great joys of my life is visiting with my friend Daniel Martinez. I described in Life Without Limits how Chris and Patty Martinez of Long Beach brought their nineteen-month-old boy to a church where I was speaking in 2008. They were seated far back in the crowd, but Chris held little Daniel in the air so I could see that this precious child was born just as I was, with neither arms nor legs.

At that point Daniel was the first person I’d met who looked just like me. Talk about an emotional moment! I felt an immediate bond with the Martinez family. I couldn’t wait to meet privately with them to give them encouragement and to share my experiences. My joy was compounded when my parents arrived from Australia a few days later, and they, too, quickly bonded with Daniel, Chris, and Patty.

Since then we have stayed in touch. Daniel has proven to be even more fearless and adventurous than I was as a child. God put me in his life to give him the role model that I never had, and I feel blessed whenever we get together. So you can imagine my concern when the Martinezes told me just a few months ago that Daniel, now a first-grader, was having trouble because of bullying from schoolmates.

This upsetting news hit hard and it hit home. No matter where I travel in the world—China, Chile, Australia, India, Brazil, Canada— young people tell me stories of being bullied, ridiculed, and harassed in school, on playgrounds or buses, and increasingly online. Nearly every day we hear a new report of a young person somewhere who has committed suicide or lashed out violently after being relentlessly bullied.

When I address school groups, I am often asked to speak out against bullying and to call for an end to it. Of course, this is a very personal issue for me. Bullies targeted me often in my early school days. By middle school I had many friends, but even that didn’t stop the hurtful comments and mean-spirited teasing.

There was one particular taunter, an older kid named Andrew, who really got to me when I was thirteen by yelling something crude at me every time he saw me. There is no delicate way to describe what he would say to me. Day after day, he’d walk by me and shout out, “Nick has no —— !”

It’s typical of the crass comments some guys make to one another, and I might have been able to laugh it off if he’d only said it once. But this bloke was relentless. It was bad enough to be missing my arms and legs. Now I had this yammering dodo falsely demeaning my manhood at an age when young men are sensitive about such things. It didn’t help that sometimes a few of his friends snickered too, making me feel even worse. Most of the other kids did nothing, which also bothered me. You’d think someone would have told this jerk to shut up, but no one did, and that hurt and angered me even more.

You should never allow a bully to make you feel badly about yourself. But I know that is easier said than done. Words can hurt even if you know they are untrue and just meant to get under your skin. This is especially true when you are confronted time after time in front of your classmates and friends—and they do nothing to stop it.

I always tell people that I’m armless but not harmless. There was a bully in grade school who pushed me too far, and I bloodied his nose by hammering him with my forehead. He was bigger than I, but my high school bully was much, much bigger than I. (By the way, Andrew is not his real name. So my Aussie friends needn’t bother trying to track him down.)

Back then I was not aware of how widespread bullying was or how serious it could be. I just knew that hearing Andrew’s taunts at least once a day was tying my stomach in knots and making me a wreck. After about two weeks of this verbal abuse, Andrew and his insults were the first things I thought of upon waking each morning. I dreaded school. I found myself avoiding him, which made me late for class. I couldn’t think straight half the time. I was either worrying about running into Andrew or feeling angry and hurt about the latest taunt he had yelled out in the corridor.