Friday, September 25, 2009

The Scars of Bullying

I was severely bullied in school. And by "severely bullied in school," I mean that from first through twelfth grade not a day went by without someone either laughing at me or calling me names. I've been laughed at for talking, laughed at for wearing the wrong kinds of shoes, and laughed up for merely walking down the hallway. I've been called "faggot" and "gay" so many times that for a while I thought I really was a homosexual (although I never thought of men that way). I was never beaten up, though; the words hurt more than a thousand punches.

I tried to pretend that the bullying didn't bother me. I wore black, sneered, and stuck up my middle finger at anyone and everyone who dared to look at me funny. But I wasn't fooling anyone. I would eventually break down and cry, and sneak into the bathroom to cut my arms. The scars on my body reflected the scars I felt inside.

And many of my bullies claimed to be Christians. They didn't really act like it though; they were always talking about smoking weed and getting laid. And yet they wore huge crosses and those WWJD wrist bands. Since I didn't really grow up in the Church, I didn't know any difference, so I thought all Christians were judgmental liars and bullies. It didn't help that Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell were still the most public Evangelical faces, so that made my disgust for religion grow. If God was just as self-righteous as the so-called "Christians" who treated me like dirt, I didn't want to have anything to do with Him.

And then when I was 17, some one introduced me to the real God. This God wasn't anything like the bullies. This was a God of love, mercy, and forgiveness. This was a God who was saying, "Come home, son. Everything is going to be alright." That was about nine years ago, and in those years there has been a lot of healing.

Although I can't say that the scars have completely healed. There are some people in my life right now who are trying to help me grow as a man and as a Christian. But whenever they speak, I feel like they are just judging me, like the school bullies judged me. Then I get upset and think about giving up on the whole God thing. Of course I could be just overreacting; I'm pretty prone to automatic negative thoughts, always thinking that other people are judging me when they're really not. But when you've been mistreated for so long, and people are constantly pointing out what you are doing wrong (even if they are right), you sort of automatically assume you're being judged.

Well, I know that when this life is over my scars will fully heal. But I do wish they would completely stop stinging right now.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing. I hope you find the healing in this soon.

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  2. Wow, Travis. This is a really good post. It's amazing how events from years ago can so profoundly affect how we continue to think about ourselves, God, and other people...even after healing has taken place. Thank you for be willing to show us some of your scars. They tell a story that we can all learn from.

    Bullying is so pervasive and so terrible. Just the other day I saw an old high school classmate of mine at Wal Mart. I asked her if she was planning to attend our 10-year high school reunion next weekend, and she said, "Why on earth would I go? All it will do is remind me of how those people called me names and laughed at me and made my life miserable for four years." (Her name is Amber, and she has a severe speech impediment, which triggered a lot of the teasing back then.)

    My heart broke when I thought about the fact that Amber's high school experience was so very different than mine. I'm glad that she considered me her friend back then...but I couldn't help but wonder if I could have done more.

    It's good to remember that we all carry around hurt. Often I have to remind myself that it's not just the starving kids in India who need my love and support. It's my neighbors, my old classmates, my friends from the blog...and it's me.

    I've been hurt by a lot of conservative Christians who have bascially disowned me for "going liberal." I keep telling myself that I've healed - but those scars will be there for a while.

    Travis, you're awesome! Keep writing, man! Candid posts like these are good for you...and for us. Honestly, when I read that you were bullied, I thought to myself, "But why? Travis is like one of the coolest people I know." (It's funny how we think we know our friends from the blogoshpere so well!)

    Thanks for helping us get to know you a little better.

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  3. Oops. I meant to say "thanks for being willing..." You can tell I'm an author, huh?

    Rachel
    http://www.rachelheldevans.com

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  4. I just followed you over here from Jesus Manifesto.
    This is honest, poignant, but still hopeful. For me, the hope lies in your experience beyond 'the so-called Christians' to 'the real God. ... a God of love, mercy, and forgiveness.'
    I suspect we will always have those 'so-called Christians' around us, but we will also have 'the real God. ... a God of love, mercy, and forgiveness.'--and also people who know that God and love to love like Him.
    Thanks... Thanks for being open and honest. Thanks for rising above the example of some of your peers, and setting a good example for us.
    Bless you, bro.

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