Bullying and the Power of Forgiveness
Every so often, we are confronted with how ugly we can really be as human beings. It happened to me today. I am quite ashamed of the following story I am about to share. I don’t come off looking good in it at all! And I am mortified that I used to be this person.
Yesterday I ran into a person that I went to school with from elementary through high school. It was not the first time that I have run into her since moving back to Vermilion 11 years ago. Every time I run into her, we would talk and catch up. She has always been so very nice to me. When I ran into her yesterday she was with a lady from my church. I was really excited to see them together. I greeted her warmly and didn’t think twice about it.
Today in church, the lady who was with my former classmate came up to me. I could tell she was hesitant to tell me something. She finally told me that after I left yesterday, her friend told her how mean I was to her in school. When I was a freshman I threw her books out of our locker into the hallway. (In high school, we were assigned a locker partner. You could switch but everybody had to be in agreement). She said I did it because she didn’t like David Bowie (ok…I admit it…I was a huge David Bowie fan) and I wanted a locker partner who liked him (and my best friend was a huge fan). I honestly do not remember doing this at all.
I cannot tell you how awful and ugly I felt when I heard this. I just could not believe it. I really wanted to find a rock and crawl under it. I thought I was so nice in high school. I got along with everyone. I was in shock. I hated mean girls and here someone was telling me that I had been ONE!!! As I sat in church, my heart just broke. I felt like such a hypocrite. I am always talking to our youth and my nieces about being kind and not being a bully. That every person has value and worth.
And I had been what I despise the most…a bully. Even typing this, my eyes swell with tears and my stomach feels sick.
And the thing that got me was that I really liked this girl in school. She was so sweet.
I prayed that God would forgive me. I thanked Jesus for shedding His blood so that this, even this, could be forgiven.
As soon as Pastor Jim said his final “amen” I made a beeline for the lady who had told me all this. I told her that I have to make this right. She agreed to give me her cell number.
I want to say that when I got home that I immediately called her. I didn’t. I agonized for about an hour. I contemplated e-mailing her or looking her up on Facebook. But I knew what I needed to do.
I called her.
I was so relieved when it went to voice mail. I left my name and number wondering if she would call me back.
I apologized for being so cruel. I apologized for not remembering even doing it. I told her that I found Jesus my sophomore year of high school. That I am not the same person. And I really don’t even like David Bowie anymore. 🙂
She was as sweet as I remembered. We talked for a half an hour. She told me stories on how rough school was for her. Kids spit in her face while teachers looked on. I couldn’t believe it!!! She did not even tell me the worst of the stories. She wasn’t angry when she told me the stories. Just matter of fact. We talked about some of the kids who had been mean to her and what their home lives were like…looking for a reason for the kids being so mean.
All I could think about was how different her high school experience had been from mine. The hell she endured. The pain she quietly endured. And I was part of that pain!
She forgave me. I know I don’t deserve it but I am so glad that she did.
I invited her to church. I hope from all of this that a friendship can grow between us. I know I don’t deserve it.
It reminded me about the power of words. We may not remember saying or doing something mean and hateful to someone…but the person that we say them to and do them to? They remember them for a lifetime. It’s been over 25 years and she still remembered the details.
It also reminds me of the power of forgiveness. She so readily and freely gave it to me. I say to people struggling with unforgiveness that we are most like Jesus, not when we are preaching or praying for people or leading worship or traveling to other countries as a missionary or feeding the hungry (though all of those are good and godly) but we are MOST LIKE JESUS WHEN WE FORGIVE.
My classmate showed me Jesus tonight. I am humbled and very grateful.