Sorry it's been so long since I've updated my blog. Summer is typically a time I try to set aside for my kids. It's hard to get work in when they're on summer break! Hope that you are having a great summer and enjoying time with your family and friends. Mine has been filled with water parks, movies, vacation and more. I am looking forward to Fall. It's been the 100's here and I feel like I might melt soon! It was so hot here that I opened my front door, returning home from being gone all day, and my fire alarm went off because of the rush of heat that hit the inside of my home!
In other news, I want to thank all of you who've read LISTEN and who've written to tell me how it has changed your life. I continue to run into people who've been deeply affected by words. One of those people is Susan Richardson, a fellow writer, who has graciously allowed me to post an article she wrote on the power of words. You can read more about Susan at http://www.nextlevelcritiques.com/. Below is her powerful essay. Hope you enjoy. We'll talk soon.
When Words Wound the Soul
by Susan Richardson
Lunch was the worst, I think. If I didn’t get to the cafeteria early enough, then I had to run the gamut of insults to try to find an empty space that wasn’t close to anyone else. Too close and I’d get “What are you sitting THERE for?” or “We don’t want YOU here.”
After that it was the restroom. Going in was like entering enemy territory, never knowing when an ambush awaited. Who knew who else might be in there? Some days I tried not to go at all. Other days I chose lesser used restrooms or went at odd times. Anything to avoid being ridiculed and told that I had no business being in there.
Each time something like Virginia Tech or Columbine happens, the shooter’s story turns to bullying. He or they were outcasts living in a world of rejection. Finally the pain and anger built to the point that they made a terrible choice. While their actions are horrific, I understand the pain and anger, because their story was mine, too.
School didn’t start out badly for me. The first three and a half years were fairly uneventful. Then I moved to a new school and somehow slid further and further down the pecking order until by sixth grade I was at the bottom of the heap. From then until I graduated from high school, I endured regular abuse from my peers.
In fairness, I have to say that some of the others in my class did not pick on me. Many merely ignored me as outside their group. A few tolerated me, and I had a friendship or two along the way. But the relentless taunting of a core group made my life miserable. The wounds from such treatment are deep and the scars remain lifelong.
Self worth erodes to nothing and a feeling of unworthiness takes its place. Because this violates a basic need every human has, the victim then tries to find some way to make the abuse stop and regain a sense of self. When that’s unsuccessful, anger builds over the growing sense of helplessness, hopelessness, and depression.
Trying to ignore what’s happening doesn’t help. The old “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” sounds good but isn’t true. Cruel words seep through barricades erected to keep them out. Confronting doesn’t work, either. I tried that, but my tormenters just asked why they should stop, because they were having fun.
In the end, I withdrew as far as possible. I dropped out of band after junior high, unwilling to face the hazing of joining the high school band. I wanted to be as invisible as possible. If no one saw me, then hopefully they wouldn’t tease me.
I also had an explosive temper. Most of the time I pulled away, but the anger built and sometimes I’d try to strike back verbally. My peers probably thought that I wasn’t a nice person. In many ways I wasn’t, as I tried to find some way to cope with the pain.
Through the years since then I’ve continued to struggle with the scars left from my school days. Regaining that damaged sense of worth isn’t easy. The message that you’re not worth liking or being around continues to replay.
The other challenge is how such abuse damages faith. After all, many in my world told me I wasn’t worthy of a relationship, so it was hard to believe Jesus wanted to have one with me. Then there was the question of how God could care when He never intervened. We do live in a fallen, broken world, but I’m thankful for the Lord’s protection even in the midst of abuse. The wounds are there, but He helped me survive.
Getting out of the situation helps. So does time. The more positive interactions you have over time, the more healing can take place. I’m grateful to my college pastor for his patience as I struggled. He helped me make the first steps into wholeness. But you can’t erase years of abuse easily.
More recently I’m thankful for a Godly counselor who worked with me to uproot and overcome many of the old patterns with the Lord’s help. Beginning to understand how deeply He loves me and how precious I am in His eyes is balm to a wounded spirit. He’s also shown me people who love and care about me.
Bullying isn’t a matter of “kids will be kids.” It is soul-killing abuse, whether the abuse is physical or verbal. If your child is being bullied, do whatever it takes to get him or her out of the situation and find help to overcome the effects. The good news is that Jesus is strong enough to heal and restore. He offers power and strength for the lifelong journey through death to true life.