Today I Saw God
Confessions From a Former Bully
My son starts first grade this week; he is excited. He has about 1,000 friends, and I'm not a very good social coordinator so school is really his best chance to socialize and be with everyone. Much to the dismay of his teachers, no matter who you put my son next to in class, he will find a way to strike up a conversation with this person. He loves to talk, and he loves people, so everyone is his friend. Everyone has a chance with him.
I love this about him. I want to bottle this up, preserve it and feed it back to him when he's older in case he loses this trait.
Because I wasn't like this when I was in elementary school. As much as I hate to admit it now, I didn't give every kid a chance. I judged; I looked for opportunities to put myself above other people, and I took those opportunities. I was the classic case of an insecure girl who fought her insecurities by putting others down. My motto was to make sure that there were enough other people for bullies to pick on so they wouldn't pick on me.
I was a bully.
Not the "meet me behind the school" type of bully but a bully all the same. I used my influence to mock and torture girls that I didn't like. If you weren't with me, you were against me, and if you were against me, I made it my mission to make sure you regretted that choice. Year after year, I found girls to make fun of and gossip about to my friends for fear that if I didn't, I would be next.
Did I mention that I was a Girl Scout, an active participant at my church and the teacher's pet?
To the vast majority of adults, I probably didn't appear to be the condescending girl that I actually was. Maybe I did, but no one ever called me on it. I was able to continue bullying year after year, and no one ever told me to stop. It never once occurred to me how miserable I was making life for the girls that were subjected to my torture in school over the years.
But we all grow up some day, don't we? And the thing about living in the same town that you grew up in is that sometimes you run into people you knew from elementary school. Or sometimes they friend you on Facebook, and suddenly you remember all the nasty things you said about a person, and you wonder if they remember those things too. You want so badly to apologize, but you don't know if what you said about the person was to their face or behind their back, and you wonder if bringing it up will only make matters worse.
I think about the girls I probably hurt the most: the girls who would never friend me on Facebook, the ones who wouldn't say "hi" if they saw me on the street, the girls I will never have a chance to apologize to in-person. Perhaps the ones who deserve an apology the most and yet are so far removed from my life that I have no way to find them.
That's where God's forgiveness comes in. But, trust me, that was not really a conversation that was super fun to have:
"Hey God, I think it's time we talk about all those times that I insulted those precious daughters who you love so much and created in your image. I basically made them feel like dirt, and I didn't care. I made fun of them because of the way they looked or the way they dressed or because they weren't smart enough. I didn't think they were good enough, and I made sure others knew it. I think we both know why I did this, but since I'm sharing, how about I go first? I did this because I was scared and didn't think I was good enough. I projected my own insecurities on these poor girls and made them suffer for my problems. And now I'm an adult, and I can't take any of it back, and I can't pretend it didn't happen so I need your forgiveness."
But then God answered: "I forgive you. It's not too late. My children are still being bullied. You can still help them."
And with that, my heart became forever changed, and it aches for the kids who are bullied. Not because I was bullied, but because I bullied, and I know how cruel I was.
Students are back in school. For many, like my son, this is an exciting time when they can connect with friends who they haven't seen all summer. But others are terrified, knowing that their summer break from tormenting is over.
Please talk to your kids about bullying. If you don't know what to say, try reading them this letter from Momastery.com. You might not think you need to worry about your children, as I bet my parents didn't think they needed to worry about me, but talk to them anyway.
Last week, I sat down with my son, and I read him the letter, substituting his name as if I had written it to him. And then we talked about what it looked like to be nice to everyone.
Then he looked at me with his big blue eyes, and I could tell he had something really important to ask me.
"Yes, sweetie? You can ask me anything."
"Can I get some water now?"
Talk to your kids. They will listen. And then they will tell you when they are ready to be done.