With all the talk about bullying lately, especially following the tragic story of another teenage, bullying-related suicide, I thought I would share my story. Another Xangan recently shared their story of how being bullied led them to become a bully. I can understand that response; we all handle the agony of bullying differently. My response was different.
Long story short, I was homeschooled second through fifth grade, and then my parents sent me to sixth grade. This was a terrible idea, which we all agree about now. It was a terrible age for an awkward, unathletic, dorky kid to be thrust into a class full of private school kids who had been together for years. I got the best grades in the class, and I didn't know how to fit in socially, two things that didn't go over well. I was bullied, not physically, but psychologically in very cruel ways, usually by the kids, at least once by a teacher. I tried to tell my parents that the situation was unbearable; they didn't get it. I used to blame them, but I don't now. I realize that they thought it was just growing pains and would improve; it didn't. I felt a crushing sense of aloneness and abandonment. The things I was good at--academics and pleasing authority figures--were definitely not helpful, so I felt powerless. Sixth grade was the worst year of my life, and seventh and eighth grades were also terrible to lesser extents.
The middle school bullying and ostracization I felt followed me for years. I felt like a loser every single day. I think bullying makes some people turn hard, but I just became one of those people who was very close to being a statistic. It's only by the grace of God that I'm still alive; I felt so badly about myself many times that I didn't want to be. I hope that when you read stories about the effects bullying has, you don't think they're overly dramatic; they're not.
But this isn't a story that ends in the dark. When I was in mid to late high school, a man named John Pritikin came to my youth group. John is in the Guinness Book of World Records for his feats of strength, but his life story is of being a child who was called "retarded" and bullied horribly by his peers because of his learning challenges, only to grow up and graduate college with honors. John gave an altar call for people with similar difficult experiences. I went forward, and in a moment, I felt God literally remove a huge part of the burden of pain I had been carrying all those years. The dark shroud of my middle school years started to disintegrate.
My healing has been progressive. Even now, at age 27, I still have flashbacks. Sometimes the pain washes over me when I remember back then, and it's like I can't breathe. Once again, I have to bring the hurt to the healer--Jesus Christ. He never fails to comfort me when I let Him. I still have to refuse the lies and voices in my head telling me that the things people said about me back then are true, but now that I know the Truth Himself, I have somewhere to run.
I wanted to share this for a few reasons:
1) People are not Etch-A-Sketches. You don't write things on them that erase in an instant. Everything you (or I) say or do makes an indelible mark for good or evil.
2) There is hope. We've all been hurt in terrible ways, even if your story is nothing like mine. I know from experience that God heals from unspeakable inner pain. I used to be intensely suicidal; now I'm excited to experience the future with Jesus' arms around me. There is absolutely nothing that is too dark for His healing to redeem it.
3) If you're a caregiver for a child, please listen and take them seriously if they talk about being bullied or if they're not coping well. Most likely, they're not just going to grow out of it; their pain will have serious consequences.
4) Related to the above, pay attention to whether a child in your care is a bully and put a stop to it, and if you're a bully, stop!