Since I am setting foot on a plane in a few minutes, I thought I would recycle one of my old posts:
I spent some time this morning talking about love and forgiveness, particularly perverted, twisted applications of these concepts.
I have lots and lots of stories to tell about these subjects. I am privileged to get hear some of the most private and painful details about people’s lives. But those stories are privileged and will never be discussed in this forum, even anonymously.
Instead, I will use a personal story.
In elementary, I attended a rather exclusive private Christian school. My parents, however, were relatively poor. I got my clothes from second hand shops. And my father had been crippled from polio as a child, he walked “funny”. As a consequence, I was picked on. Each year, it got worse.
I was never invited to birthday parties. I found that there was no point in trying to sit at a table with other children. If I did, I would be asked to move down a seat or two to accommodate someone’s friends. Once I was situated in my new spot, I would be asked to move again. And so on until I had to move to another table. No one spoke to me. Not even the teachers. I would test my voice out to make sure it worked. Some classmates interpreted my silence as prudishness. I learned what the word prude meant when someone put a Valentine accusing me of that in my Valentines box, with a heart shaped sucker attached.
In fourth grade, the bullying became more physical. I had rocks thrown at me when I was swinging. Or kids would spit at me when I walked past.
I think about how childish this all was now and it is almost too embarrassing to write about. But it created deep and lasting scars on my heart.
For most of my adult life, I carried that hurt and anger with me. In college I ran into one of the individuals who was involved in the torture, more on the periphery, and let her have it. I thought letting someone know about how it had hurt would help. It didn’t.
So, one day I resolved to stop thinking about it. I allowed myself to move on.
Was that forgiveness? Yes. I still hate everyone in that school who made me believe that I was worthless. But I do not allow that to consume me, to define who I am any longer.
But on the flip side of things, I am grateful for the bullying. If I had not experienced that adversity and learned how to use that anger and frustration constructively, I never would have made straight A’s. I had to show those people that no matter how little they made me feel, I still counted for something. I couldn’t dress fancy. Or have expensive toys. But I could, by golly, score higher than all of them on my tests. So I did.
Those grades, and the drive, got me to medical school. Which then allowed me to travel the world, seeing and experiencing things I had never thought possible.
I think now about my kids and whether or not I want them to experience the pain I did. The answer is, I don’t. But I do have the peace that if they do, maybe I can help them understand how to turn it into something extraordinary.