Prayer, Forgiveness, and the Nightmare of Being Bullied

In the comments section of The Difference Between “Praying For” and “Forgiving,” reader “Susan in NY” wrote this, which perfectly captures so much of what we’ve recently been discussing about prayer and forgiveness:

There was a particular girl in junior high school who bullied me. I can’t seem to forgive her; I still harbor anger towards her. If I try to pray for her, my prayers are hollow. I’m still so angry that I don’t even want to pray even harder for her, or meditate on the issue at all. … I think I will hash it over in therapy. Maybe then I can shake it loose and get rid of it. Being bullied is not like some of the terrible things that people endure. In the grand scheme of horrible things that happen to people, verbal bullying is pretty low on the list, IMO. That fact makes me feel even more angry and frustrated that the bullying still has such a negative hold on me.

Man, isn’t that the whole forgive-and-forget/pray for your enemies/the enduring nature of resentment/”What’s the matter with me?” enchilada, right there?

It is! So let’s spend a little time chewing on that mofo — which I’ll do below, sentence by sentence.

There was a particular girl in junior high school who bullied me. That’s so awful.

I can’t seem to forgive her; I still harbor anger towards her. That’s so exactly what I was talking about in my last post. Of course you can’t forgive her. She bullied you. That’s a horrible thing to do to someone. Why would you want to forgive her for doing such a terrible thing? If back then you’d seen her smacking around a little kid, would you today be struggling to “forgive” her? Of course not; you’d hope she died a miserable death. And in any account, how would you actually go about forgiving this person from your past? She hasn’t asked for your forgiveness, has she?

Forgiving someone is a gift that you have to be asked to give. The woman who once bullied you isn’t asking you to forgive her, so of course your solo efforts to forgive her fail. Half the components necessary for forgiveness to occur aren’t even present. You’re attempting to blow out candles that aren’t lit. (As per the update to my last post: this is a semantical distinction, but an important one.)

What you can do, without her participation or presence, is love the girl who bullied you. You know the old saying: Hate the bullying; love the bully. (That is how that goes, right?) Loving this girl is the only way you’re ever going to neutralize the grip she still has on you.

And the way you can easily enough love her is by doing nothing more than contemplating for a moment or two upon the truth that she bullied you. How messed up must she have been to do to you one of the worst things anyone can do to another person? Whether implicitly or explicitly, she was continuously threatening you with violence. Bullying isn’t anything less than that. That’s awful.

And a kid in junior high who is so tweaked they actually act out violently could have only learned the dynamics of that behavior at home.

How horrible a home life your bully must have had. She’d probably been beaten all her life: it’s the beaten kids who beat. You feel angry when you think of the terrible things this girl did or said to you. But think how terrible it would be to be that girl.

As you feel bad for how that girl victimized you, you can feel bad for how terribly she herself must have been victimized. That girl’s started life two strikes (and probably a couple of kicks) down. Transfer your hatred of her to where that hatred belongs, which is to her parents.

And there’s your love for her, your fellow victim of a sometimes terribly mean and harsh life.

If I try to pray for her, my prayers are hollow. Try again? Try this prayer: “Dear God, please bring healing to the heart of the girl who bullied me in junior school. I know she suffered. I know her suffering made her mean and crazy. Please help the nightmare that girl inherited end with her. And please send her my love. I know in picking on me she was only acting out her own demons. Please tell her that it’s okay; that I’m okay. And please help me to remember her whenever I’m moved to take my hurt and anger out on others.”

I’m still so angry that I don’t want to pray even harder for her, or meditate on the issue at all. Try saying the prayer above, and then just sitting there with God for a moment after you do. Try it for us? And if you do try it, please let us know how it goes.

I think I will hash it over in therapy. Yay! Do!

Maybe then I can shake it loose and get rid of it. You’ll never forget it, of course. But you certainly can turn the hatred it now engenders in you into love, and thereby live into the wisdom of Jesus’ “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” And doing and feeling that is about as beautiful as beautiful gets.

Being bullied is not like some of the terrible things that people endure. In the grand scheme of horrible things that happen to people, verbal bullying is pretty low on the list, IMO. Being victimized by a bully is like the worst of some of the most terrible things that people endure. Bullying is emotional violence that’s predicated upon the ever-present possibility of physical violence. It doesn’t get a whole lot worse than that. Everybody remembers anyone who ever bullied them, because it’s just that painful. It’s one of the worst ways to be victimized, period.

That fact makes me feel even more angry and frustrated that the bullying still has such a negative hold on me. But it’s not at all a fact that bullying isn’t really all that bad. It is all that bad. Of course it still has a “negative hold” on you. You wouldn’t be human if it didn’t.

Well, my wife just came down the stairs, so I’m gonna go have coffee with her on our porch. Love to you, Susan. Let us know how this goes for you. I’ll say a prayer this morning for you and the poor, broken girl who bullied you, wherever she is today.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • http://gaychristiangeek.blogspot.com Rainicorn

    Great post as usual, John. I too was bullied by a mean girl at school, and to this day I can’t think of her without resentment, anger, and hurt (in our house she was known as “Kat Bitchley”). That prayer seems like a great way to get a handle on such deep-rooted emotions, and to deal with them in a way that’s neither repressive nor self-pitying.

    As an adult, having been verbally bullied is a tough thing to have to deal with. On the one hand, you’re thinking, “She made my life a misery for two years! I woke up crying every day that I didn’t want to go to school, and I was a nerdy bookworm who loved learning! That is not something I can forget!” On the other hand, I’m now a grown-ass women with letters after my name; I should be able to get past the fact that, when I was ten, a fellow ten-year-old stole all my friends, called me names, and made me a social outcast. But, honestly? I still kind of hate her.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      My wife Catherine was also seriously bullied as a kid by a huge girl who for SURE ended up doing serious time. Catherine was small, from another country (England), almost pathologically shy, and from a severely dysfunctional home. AWFUL! Bullying is bad.

      Anyway, Rain, thanks for writing this. You’ve perfectly nailed the whole dynamic.

      • Gina Powers

        Thank you and Cat for sharing that, John…..it’s good to know I wasn’t alone! And I WAS pathetically shy due to the nightmare I faced not only at school but at home. I wish Cat all the peace in the world, and God bless you both.

  • kimberly

    as usual, well said, John. i used to tell my kids, as a victim of bullying myself in school, to remember when someone does something or says something mean to you, they may have been treated badly before they ever left home. you never know what might have been said to them before they ever got to school. maybe they were treated badly first. i have my aunt to thank for that wisdom. God bless her beautiful, forgiving heart for helping me through. i will never forget a young man who was bi-racial that was treated so badly by everyone on my school bus. no one ever let him have a seat. in fact, i never learned his name, because even though i invited him to sit with with me, he never spoke to me. they called him zero. it broke my heart. days went by as we sat together and he looked out the window in silence. on the last day of school, just before he stood up to get off the bus when we reached his house, he touched my hand. i never saw him again. i have no idea what happened to him. but i have never forgotten him. i was bullied because of that, and for other reasons. i share a family trait of having many moles, and was once held down on the bus while a group of kids used a black marker to connect several of them on my face, which created a 5 pointed star. i was then called witch for several years. this was in the 6th grade, and was pretty traumatic at the time. i was new to this school, and *gasp* my parents were divorced!!! a big deal to rural farming communities in the early 70′s. i know others were bullied far worse than i ever was, so i am not attempting to compare. but i did try to help my kids understand that when kids do that, they were most likely acting out their own pain. i hope that Susan can find a way past the pain that must burn so deeply. there is so much solace and hope in the power of Christ’s changing love. i send her love and wishes for peace and blessings.

  • http://www.offgridworship.com Janet

    Great post. I was married to a bully for 23 very long years. I remember talking to the Lord about forgiveness one day. I told Him, “I ‘want to’ want to forgive him and his mom” (who embezzled money from our business.) Eventually I actually WANTED to forgive them. And eventually I did.

  • Dirk

    I see no wisdom to forgiving or forgetting bullies.

    Nor do I believe that they have some horrible experience in their past which has made them that way.

    They are just hateful, nasty people.

    We are prevented from exacting suitable revenge upon them by law.

    Unfortunately.

    The best thing to do is to find a way to ruin their current lives. Thoroughly.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Dirk: I appreciate your militancy; it’s completely justified; I promise I’ve fought for your cause as directly and vigilantly as you. But you might want to back off just a little on the anger. If you keep saying things as aggressively hostile as, “The best thing to do is to find a way to ruin their current lives –thoroughly,” you begin to marginalize yourself as a guy so enraged he’s become useless — and thusly do you at the very least compromise the integrity of your cause (if not the perception of your character). Have some compassion. Have a place in your heart, for instance, for the pastor of a large, very conservative Christian church in my area who wants to meet with me privately by way of “picking my brain” on the issue of LGBT people and Christianity. This guy is searching. He’s listening. He’s willing to rethink everything if that’s what it takes to get it right. If you don’t have a place where you can appreciate what conservative Christians like this pastor are doing and trying, then you’re just another one-dimensional extremist signaling to the world that you don’t have the depth of character to be of any real good in the fight you call your own. I’m not saying you ARE a uselessly angry militant; I’m suggesting you might want to consider the degree to which it’s possible you’re beginning to sound like one.

      • Dirk

        John,

        That’s a valid point.

        The day my parents were threatened because gay me dared to return to our Dixie hell-hole to help the elderly, widowed and orphans who were so badly hurt by the storm was the day I completely lost any compassion or mercy for conservative Christians.

        There is no place left in my heart for them.

        They are exactly like the Nazis, there is no difference whatsoever. We gays and transgender are the new jews.

        I understand that one must tackle this problem from all possible angles. It is good that Christians like you are willing to tackle this.

        For me, there is no patience left. I will from now on invest all my money and time in finding ways to make life for conservative Christians (legally, of course) a living hell on earth.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          The good news is that it won’t be long now until the idea that (to short-phrase the whole thing) “God hates fags” is dumped in the same dustbin as “The Bible supports slavery,” and “The Bible tells us women shouldn’t vote.” On the summer’s day on which that particular sun is setting, I’d say it’s about 6:00 p.m.

    • vj

      But isn’t ruining lives what bullies do? By using the bullying you have been subjected to as the reason for inflicting pain on others, you are perpetuating the cycle and contradicting your claim that those who cause suffering have not themselves experienced it. Hatred can only ever produce more hatred.

      • vj

        Darn! ;-) John’s comment got in first! Obviously, mine above is directed at Dirk…..

        • DR

          Dirk’s rage is an opportunity for all of us to understand just how deeply we as a Christian community have impacted the GLBT community. He’s not a Christian – to imply that he should forgive his enemies or be less angry (regardless of our belief that it is healthier for him) is to suggest that he is the one who needs to change instead of us changing. Dirk is the victim, my friends and with all due respect? It’s none of our business if he decides to forgive or not. Our opinions of his rage and hatred and the conclusions he’s drawn about us are his to own. He’ll change if and when it serves him and if we’re going to be open to talking about this with people who are *actually* gay? I think we should be open to simply accepting how they feel and not change it. We should focus on how we change the christians in our own community who are responsible for this.

          • http://ihopetomorrowisbetter.blogspot.com/ Molly Bandit

            THIS. Yes. *applauds*

          • DR

            This should read,

            “Our opinions of his rage and hatred and the conclusions he’s drawn about us are *secondary to his own experience* “.

          • Dirk

            Hmm, dr, raised in the Christian church.

            Active as a Christian for over 50 years.

            Now fed up with the Christian church, but, goodness, me oh my, you sure are quick to jump to the “gay, so not a Christian”.

            That’s a big part of the problem, right there.

          • DR

            Dirk I was almost certain you’d confirmed you weren’t a Christian in an earlier thread a few weeks ago, it wasn’t an assumption I made. There are plenty of Christians who are gay if I was wrong about you then I stand corrected.

          • Dirk

            Nope, I never said that.

            I did say (or meant to) that I’d had it with Christianity.

            That is not the same thing as no longer being or never having been a follower of Christ.

            This is a war.

            Conservative Christians are killing us. Raping us. Beating and torturing us. Roughly 40% of homeless children were kicked out of their homes by their Christian parents for being gay or transgender. The overwhelming majority of non-conservative Christians are doing nothing to help us.

          • DR

            Got it. Well I apologize for the misstatement, I read it wrong. if there weren’t gay christians then half of my parish is showing up to church for the coffee at the end of the service so being gay and Christian is as real as being a male and christian, as being a 40-year old and being christian, etc.

            I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said. Non-conserative Christians are also to blame. We as a group would never allow what you’ve stated here to another group without standing up in throngs- that we haven’t, try to just argue with you that it’s not as bad as you’re making it out to be reveals who we really are as a group and what we really care about.

      • Dirk

        So tell me, VJ, how many of your heterosexual children have committed suicide in the last year because they were bullied for being gay?

        How many of your lesbian and transgender and even gay church members were raped, beaten and murdered?

        • vj

          Actually, in my personal experience (school, family, work, city), I have been the outsider for identifying as Christian.

          Dirk, it is precisely because I don’t have the same experiences as you that I find your contributions so valuable. I wish that we could meet in person, because we seem to be perpetually at cross purposes here. Obviously I know very little about you (and vice versa), but my heart grieves with you over the violence perpetrated against you and those you care about – “an injustice to one is an injustice to all”.

          I don’t wish to add to your rage, so from now on I’ll just read what you have to share (and please do keep exposing the insanity) and keep my thoughts to myself.

    • http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

      While I obviously have no idea of your pain as a gay man (being an asexual female), I do know a little something about revenge and the law.

      I ask you, please, please do not let anger get the best of you and do something stupid – for your sake.

      I have a little story to share about revenge. This is kind of hard – I really hope there will be no major ramifications of me sharing my story here – it’s that bad. If John wants to delete my post later he can. It’s not like anyone at my job knows my online life or my handle or anything, though so I’m probably okay.

      Six years ago, I was tired of being dicked around with by asshole bosses, and by an abusive boss in general. (I had worked for a week for a dog groomer who yelled at me so much it triggered a panic attack in me. He yelled at the dogs he took care of so much they’d shake, too). I’d just had it with people like him, and he had fired me over my telephone answering machine and demanded I come by his place to pick up my last check.

      I had a huge medical bill to pay. I’d informed the ass ahead of time that I had some problems. I knew that I was in a position where no one would listen to me if I tried to sue for discrimination, so… I took a samurai sword (an ornamental piece I’d gotten at a convention) off my wall, packed it up…. drove over….

      … and wrecked up the front of his shop with it. I did not hurt him, but I did brandish the thing with a decidedly psychotic look on my face (I’m sure).

      My roaring rampage of revenge (that possibly left a mess in my target’s pants, which was my goal, anyway… I didn’t want to hurt the idiot, I just wanted him to know fear), felt good for a moment. When I’d realized what I’d done and was witing for the cops to arrive, it didn’t feel so good. I got no prison time, but I do have a mark on my record that will follow me the rest of my life, and barring my *creative work* catching anyone’s eye, will guarantee that I’ll stay in the kind of job I am in now (part time, minimum wage, partly under the table stablehand). While the person I’d served revenge on? He still has his business and probably still tells this crazy story about a crazy bitch to people.

      In other words, revenge hurt me (legally, real world ramifications) more than it hurt the one I was serving it to.

      Almost committed suicide over the whole thing…. found out I was bipolar. Been medicated and doing better (and crime-free) for over six years now. So nobody needs to be afraid me, alright? Just nobody do somemthing stupid like I did – no matter how angry you get, becuase it will hurt you.

      • Don Rappe

        Yep, that was being bullied. And your bully hurt you indirectly when you went over the top. He won’t be asking your forgiveness will he? But, if he still occupies any space in your mind, you can pray for the sick coward. I was bullied a great deal until the summer of my 15′th year when I grew 10 inches taller. The bullies fell away and disappeared. Their secret was that they were all cowards.While it is not always physical, it is usually a history of abuse that makes a person a coward. And bullying is a symptom of the sickness they have. It presents as persistent and unexplainable anger.

        • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

          He won’t ask for my forgiveness and I won’t ask for his. It is a situation where the two are best staying well apart from one another. I served my probation, I have a spot on my record, the police took away my sword, etc. – the law took care of it, what is done is done. It’s been over with for a long time.

          I am told by people that I shouldn’t feel too bad for what I did becuase – I just did what they’ve wanted to do. Lots of people have revenge-fantasies against abusive bosses. I actually carried mine out.

          I know that I am a brave person, but said incident is proof that “courage” isn’t always a good thing. My ancestry (on my father’s side) is Scandinavian – I think I’ve got some Viking bersker blood in me.

          I try to practice forgiveness (or at least moving on) whenever possible and try to encourage the same in others, but certain stories on the comments lately, well – on one of the threads… pretty much shut me up. (I mean, the Conservative Christians I’ve known – and was – were more misguided than actually hateful. Apparently, I’ve had a different experience than others. And that said, I can’t judge. I can’t say that a person isn’t entitled to their anger, even their hate) – I just caution against taking a drastic road with that, because, well, the law isn’t always (or usually) on the side of people who exact revenge.

          I did something stupid. It felt good for a moment, then screwed up my life (and not just in the spiritual/philosphic sense).

          • Dirk

            You know, I keep saying ‘strictly legal’ and it doesn’t seem to echo.

            Appreciate the concern, genuinely regret what you went through.

  • Mindy

    Great post, John. Full disclosure – Susan in NY is a dear friend, and the one who turned me on to you in the first place. I know she will take what you said to heart, because she has one of the biggest hearts on the planet. I love everything you wrote here, and will re-read it, often.

  • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

    It doesn’t take long, concentrated bullying to adversely affect somebody for the rest of their lives. All it takes is one thoughtless word.

    Wow, good thing I haven’t done anything like that, huh?

  • Don Whitt

    When I was little, Bobby Crow used rubber-bands to shoot horseshoe nails at our naked legs as we walked by his house to the neighborhood swimming pool in Stockton. Stung pretty badly. He scared the bajeebers out of us. At 9 yrs old, it was obvious that he was already a sociopath.

    Later on in life, he was caught walking out of a house he robbed in Lodi and one of the things he stole was a shotgun. That meant it was armed robbery. He’s probably still in prison, or, more likely, dead.

    They way I look at all these “bad people” in our lives is that their nastiness catches up with them eventually. It’s very sad and pathetic and a good lesson for us all.

    I now have a neighbor who is almost 60 and she is a terrible bully. People have left the neighborhood because of her. She once tried to get a restraining order on an 8 yr old who touched her garden. Law enforcement would only ask for mediation and, to her chagrin, she was told to be civil and rational – they dropped the request and never went to mediation. The 8 yr old’s family moved from our little cul-de-sac. The worst part is that she has engaged her two sons as sort of henchmen in her dramas – child abuse really, but nothing actionable by the authorities. She has an older daughter form an earlier marriage with whom she has broken off all contact.

    In other words, she lives in hell and so does everyone close to her.

    I hate her some times. I would like her to go away all the time. The only thing I can earnestly pray for is her release from whatever demons possess her. She is obviously very tormented.

    While we can pray for these bullies, and wish for their recovery and entry back into the human race, maybe the thing we should pray for the most is to not become one of those people. The hate they illicit from us has the potential to make us as horrible as they.

    • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

      Over on Huffington Post (a place I really shouldn’t comment at), my handle wracked up enough posts to warrant one of their “micro-biographies.” I chose one that referenced the videogame character in my avatar there. (I am “AdorableHero” over there and I have as my personal avatar a hand-painted fanart image of Link from “The Legend of Zelda” series). My micro-bio there is “Conquer your dark side or become it.”

      It’s a reference to the character/games because one of the recurring themes in the games of that series is Link (your player character) facing a “Dark Link” – a shadow version of himself. When you fight this shadow, it typically mirrors your moves – just a fun mirror-move boss, but it’s always had philosophical implications. At least for me. In the one of the games, you’re outright told “Conquer Yourself!” as instruction and…. that’s what you do.

      I chose that line as a bio because I think that’s what we need to do in real life, every day.

      As for my grade school and high school bullies – I can’t say I think about them too much. I didn’t get much in the way of physical bullying, but the emotional stuff? Yeah. Some people apparently suffer anger issues the rest of their lives, not being able to get over it. I, on the other hand, developed a mental illness and am insecure and self-blaming. I always think that there’s something wrong with ME. I am, as some people have told me, an expert at beating myself up. I am not sure that is ever going to leave me. But what I can say is that I’m not angry, really. I mean… in my better moments, I know that I’m far more creative than most people, I always had artistic skills and passion that made my classmates jealous, and I know that I am a compassionate and brave adult. I also didn’t get pregnant in high school and can wow people with random scientific and history knoweldge – because that’s the side-effect of being a geek. I’m also not into drinking my brain into oblivion… like a lot of people in my high school were, so… eh, I’ve kept my brain?

      It’s an insecure, cracked bipolar brain, but it’s a brain, dammit, and even though I’m not a material success enough to even think about attending a school reunion (or even going on Facebook to be bothered by people from the past looking for me), I enjoy having my brain, and being a geek, and being very different from the “norm.”

      I went to a U2 concert last night, so I’m in an unusually good mood. – You may get some different tune from me if I were in a depression, but for now, eh. Balanced, not angry, see no reason to be. The people of the past belong there.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Whoa, Don. CRAZY stuff. Literally. Great letter/comment. Thank you, as ever.

      • Don Whitt

        Thank YOU, John.

  • Linda B

    See that’s the rub. We are told God forgives us even before we ask it so we are supposed to do like wise. But may be he just loves us before we ask for forgivness and understands that we are messed up by life and mis perceptions of who god is and who we are and then no one uderstands it so we just give up. I coud use some good group therapy over allot of thngs. My first grade teacher abused ( bullied) me and physically hit me and pulled out my hair so no I was not sad when she died in fact I told my mom I hoped she burned in hell. never prayed for her nor thought i needed to love her. Still don’t I guess it is just where you are in life that makes you think you should do such and such I am not there. Not there for many other people who have hurt me but have determined not to kepp that ball rolling so I don’t bully others and I stand up for myslef when need be.

  • Susan in NY

    Thanks John, (and Mindy), and all the other responders. You are all helping me get to the place I need to be.

    A mutual friend of Mindy’s and mine once shared a plan for revenge that included putting raw liver in the trunk of the offenders car, to sit in the hot sun all day. Not the actual liver of the actual offender, btw. Liver from the store.

    In any event, if I ever see the woman who bullied me, would I get a pass if I did the liver in her trunk thing? I think maybe there should be a one time revenge exemption.

    Susan

    • Mindy

      I still say the liver thing is an option. If for no other reason than you will get a good laugh out of it – as will we, when you tell us about it – and laughter is always God’s work. :)

      • Susan in NY

        I agree.

        I am also trying to pray harder on the issue, but for me at this time, I think my shrink is going to be the one who will pull and push me to the place I want to be. But I’ll keep praying!

        Susan

  • DMK

    John thank you for the clarity. I believe that I substituted “forgiveness” for “love”… Though I have to think more on that, I have the feeling I need to re-evaluation what the heck I’m feeling. What I have to do is delve more into what forgiveness “is”.

    OMG.. These posts bring back memories. I was bullied for eight years, pre high school, but it affected me most of my life. I was literally terrorized by 70% of my class, and the other 30%, though might not have participated, laughed and went along with it. There was one girl who tried to teach me to fight, but I was too timid to fight back. Believe me, I can get into the details with gusto, but that wouldn’t help anything. I will just say that I was beaten up regularly and made fun of for being the fat kid. There were other fat kids, too, so I don’t understand why I was the one targeted. Maybe because I was shy, weak and didn’t defend myself.

    Anyway, I carried anger, hate and frustration until I was exactly 37 years old. All my life I wished that I could somehow get some kind of acknowledgement from any one of them that they did wrong by me. Finally, I did get the opportunity to speak with a former classmate. This guy had turned into a decent, nice person. The eye-opener was that he did not remember anything of what had gone on back then; or, of course, his role in it. I then had the courage to go to a reunion. I had higher self esteem and had changed in that I could verbally hold a conversation (which I could not do while in school because of terrible stuttering and unclear thoughts), so I made up my mind to have a good time and talk to people. Everyone there, from the ring leader to the lowest rung of the ladder embraced me like nothing ever happened. I did not have the courage to bring it up but still, nobody remembering really hurt me… and confused me.

    I was hurting all those years and those people were out there living their lives, oblivious to the far reaching effect their actions had against me. Finally, my MOM of all people, told me that I must let go of the hate… and the past. I needed to move on and now I finally could see my way to do it. It would be an act of survival. I see now all those wasted years holding myself back from life because of my obsession with the past had held me back in all areas of my life. I had to realize that the only way I could better my life and get a little peace was to move on and forget… but how do you forget? You can’t. I choose, though, to use my experience to relate to others who are hurting now…. like a lot of people here. I will use it to educate my own son. I will relate to him my experience and urge him to respect those different from him and to embrace those differences. What else can I do? This is the only way I know to try and create something good from a horrific time. This gives my experience meaning and purpose… and if I can do some good through this, I can only be grateful for the whole ugly mess called my childhood.

    Also John, thank you for that prayer you gave to Susan in NY…. I can pray like this for just about anyone I’m not too crazy about. I’m not good at composing prayers, so I thank you for this. Most recently, I have discovered that a few of my main tormentors had really bad childhoods… one even ended up in prison, but don’t know for what. So yes, I can let myself pray for them.

    Thanks for listening…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      What an amazing testimony, DMK. Thank you. this is beautiful.

    • DR

      WOW.

    • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

      Your story of healing is lovely, DMK. Thank you for sharing it with all of us. Letting go has been such an important step for me too. Blessings to you.

      • DMK

        Thank you everybody…. It’s gotten easier to share, but really delving back into the memories brings it all back to a much sharper focus. One thing I know for sure is that my healing is an ongoing thing and I’m not sure if it will ever end, but maybe it’s not supposed to. The thought that keeps me sane and grateful is that my pain can maybe help others. Only real empathy allows you to reach someone who is blind with pain. If they don’t see that real pain in me, I don’t think I can have much impact on them…. so I’m grateful for it.

        I’m very grateful to hear everyone else who shared their “bullied” stories. Believe me, I felt the pain and outrage expressed here. I’ve fantasized about revenge, but never had the guts to do anything about it; and now I know that I’d drive another nail into Jesus if I did.

        Peace to everyone.

      • DMK

        Blessings to you too, Christy… I really liked what you said, too.

  • Gina Powers

    John…..before you delete this on sight, please hear me out (since we ARE talking about forgiveness, here). First, thank you for sharing this and your insight on it. Just my two cents–as someone who was TERRIBLY bullied/harassed from the first day I entered freakin’ four-year old kindergarten, I know very well the lifelong scars that one can be plagued with as a result. Given that I’ve been addled all of my life with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) and thus never grew a “thick skin” enough to “let roll off my back” the “teasing” I received at the hands of my tormentors, this experience has been a massive undertaking to deal with, to say the least. Through therapy, I’ve gotten…..well, about a quarter of the way there, but I’ve still got a long road ahead of me, so I feel very much for the original author.

    My point? I’ve yet to figure out what the trick is to totally surrendering my will to God’s and praying for my enemy. I just….can’t get there. The residual pain is still too tremendous (these trolltards I dealt with throughout middle AND high school even gave me shizzle on GRADUATION NIGHT). Now, through taking baby steps with Facebook for instance, I’m veeerrryyyy slowly working on healing my past with a very FEW of my former schoolmates. But praying for them? Here’s my point (and I do have one): the best I can do is–when I CAN mention them in my conversations with God–is to simply put them in his hands and walk away. I figure he can deal from there.

    Thank you for listening…..thought we’ve had our differences, I still read and find comfort in a good bit of your writing, and I do truly believe that God is speaking through your endeavors. Peace be with you and Cat…….Gina P.

    • DMK

      Gina… I am touched so much by your post. Sigh. Though I say that I was terrorized, I can not say that I’ve had your terrible experiences. I can say that I was deeply depressed, had multiple compulsive disorders plague me and REALLY contemplated suicide. What saved me, literally, was the thought that I’d go to hell and Barry Manilow playing over and over again…. lol… I can LOL now.

      I am sorry that you had to experience such a horrible school life… which are the most important years for anyone whether academically, socially, every which way. I must confess I have no idea what “shizzle” is, but it doesn’t sound very nice.

      I’ve also been using facebook to test the waters with some of my old classmates. I must admit that I like seeing how they’ve turned out. One guy, the nastiest kid, claims that he’s a nice guy… well, I see his comments to other people and know the truth. He did NOT change… he’s bad news and takes every opportunity to put a bad spin on things.

      Blessings and peace be with you, Gina.

  • DR

    An amazing therapist once told me that forgiveness is not some kind of “holy amnesia”. It’s the active agent that drains the toxin from one’s mind, heart and spirit. I’ve never forgotten that.

    • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

      I like this, DR. My good therapist friend reminded me that repair and reconciliation isn’t always possible in relationships, but we can get to a point where we no longer give the people who hurt us in the past the power to continue hurting us in the present by reliving the pain of the past over and over again, that by letting go we can progress past the point where we are stuck. She said you don’t have to get to a place of feeling positive about those who hurt us – no warm and fuzzy feeling – but the goal is to feel empathy for them and reach a place where we can tear down the barriers we have built to reaching our own happiness.

      • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

        *aren’t* aren’t always possible. Subject verb agreement strikes again.

      • DR

        yes yes, this exactly.

    • http://www.moonchild11.wordpress.com moonchild11

      wow. I love that!

    • DMK

      DR… I love this so much:

      ” forgiveness is not some kind of “holy amnesia”. It’s the active agent that drains the toxin from one’s mind, heart and spirit. “

  • http://www.moonchild11.wordpress.com moonchild11

    I recently wrote a blog post about verbal abuse, which I think applies to bullying as well: http://moonchild11.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/words-bruise/

    Bullying is a problem, and verbal abuse is very hurtful. For me, before I could forgive my abuser, I had to forgive myself for feeling hurt. I guess I always used to beat myself up for letting little things like words get to me, but they do. Perhaps once you forgive yourself, forgiving someone else will come more easily…or maybe not. Maybe it only worked like that for me.

    I hope you continue to heal, Susan in NY! Prayers for you!

    • Susan in NY

      Thank you.

      Susan

  • http://twitter.com/belovedmama Christelle

    Bullying sucks. Over the past two years my family and I were verbally and emotionally abused by ultra conservative Christian bullies who we once called best friends. My wake up call was in seeing how they treated anyone who they did not consider part of their “inner circle”. The jealousy, hatred, and ugliness they showed towards others, while spewing Bible verses and making claims about what Jesus would do and who he would and would not have hung out with began to stir anger in me. When they began to harass, spiritually bully, and speak crap about my gay best friend, I finally had enough. I stood up to them. (sounds like high school, or an episode of Glee, right?) The husband literally got into my face (he’s also a fireman, I’m 5’1) and began to scream about all the things fundamental Christianity says about gays… I’m simplifying this incredibly because there is so much more to the story. I ended the friendship completely when I realized how much they were not only abusing and bullying me, but also my children, other friends who were not “in”, and most sickening- those they labeled as “going to hell.”. To put it mildly, they are now working to destroy my reputation within their circles and my former circles (ultra conservative right) by stating:

    “She likes hanging out with people going to hell” then laughing about it… (which I in turn laugh at because REALLY???!!!! so many things go through my mind with this statement that I don’t even know where to begin)

    AND.

    “Now she just hangs out with an Adulterous and Gays”… (um, ahem, why yes I do… and lovin’ it)

    Religous bullying is alive and well. Some of us, on a smaller scale, are standing up to it… Other’s of us- on a larger scale… In the Religous Bullying world, one is labeled: Crazy should they stand up to the bullies- a label also bestowed upon me by my former BFFs…

    So, the good news… I saw so much hatred towards various people groups within my former ultra conservative circles that I began to question everything I was ever taught, guilted to believe, and once (unfortunately) believed myself. I’ve posted on John’s site before that I’m working to come out of the closet… baby steps… I’ve allowed myself to be stripped of the guilt that is pressed into us (in my case) former fundamentalists, hearing condemnation makes me physically ill, hating gays and condemning them to hell thoroughly pisses me off, and bullies make me wanna smack ‘em (so mature, right?!)…

    And in the end… when I went through an incredibly difficult season in my marriage, financial issues, and a health crisis within my family- Do you know who stood by me, held me, cried with me… If you guessed my ultra conservative right Christian BFFs ERRR … Guess again. Nope, it was my amazing and wonderful gay friend (the most loving and caring man I have ever met), who, by the way, is NOT a Christian and at this point wants nothing to do with Christianity because of how he’s been treated in the name of Jesus… sigh…

    • http://twitter.com/belovedmama Christelle

      As for forgiveness- I’m literally in therapy to work on this (again, I left out ALOT of the story because this is about very real people and my entire family- events transpired that left me completely broken)… As for praying for them… Right now- the only words I can muster in this scenerio is- God help them and help me… Then I remember boundaries, refuse to let the situation have a hold on my life and emotions, and move forward… Thx for listening :)

      • Kay

        My sympathies. It’s rough having to break off relations with people you considered your best friends, because of their toxic behavior, and then have them blame you for everything. And be left completely broken by the experience. Been there just last year. :(

  • Joanne

    Thank you for this post. I have had a problem with my mother in law since I got married in 1982. I have struggled with forgiving her, but she has never asked for forgiveness and probably doesn’t begin to understand the cruelty of her nasty comments to me. This post gives me the tools to work through this. In fact, just a few weeks ago I began talking about how I felt sorry for her to have been raised the way she was – perhaps this is the beginning of the end of the pain.


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