When I began to write about about my bullying experience, I stopped short after I read through my words. They sounded very bitter. Could I still be bitter about something that happened so long ago? I wouldn’t have thought so, but reading through my narrative, it was clear that I was. Funny how writing about something helped show me my own bitterness, that I didn’t know was there.
It was my freshman year at a boarding high school. There was a lot of bullying by the upper class-men that year! What I experienced seems very minor compared to the stories of some of the others.
We all had to work twenty hours each week. My first year I got kitchen duty. I actually loved my job in the kitchen except for one hour each morning, when I was placed with four senior girls. The cook seemed to think that the group was very capable, because he would leave us a list of things to finish during the hour. Then he would come back to check on us just before time for us to go to the next class.
The four girls found great joy in making things miserable for me. They would make fun of me: my clothes, my hair, my face, my weight (about 90 pounds), my speech–anything they could think of. Each morning they would grab the list, read the jobs, and give me the least favorable one. I really didn’t care about that part. I tried to work hard and keep to myself, not showing I was insulted even when I was, and laughing when they made fun of me. Instinctively, I just did my best to endure it and never told anyone. I thought the bullying would just get worse if I tried to do anything about it.
At times the girls would be talking and telling stories and lose track of the time, at least that’s how it seemed to me. The cook would show up and be furious that things weren’t done. They always blamed it on me. They would tell him that I refused to help or something like that. We received grades on our report cards for work just like for our academic subjects. That year was the only one in which I didn’t get good marks.
Sometimes the girls would lock me in the big walk-in freezer. I didn’t really think they would leave me in there, but since I am a bit claustrophobic, I always dreaded when they would send me to get things. One girl was especially mean and would do things like lift up my skirt on the stairs!
Two of the girls were just mean–to everyone and all the time. I was afraid of them. The other two were otherwise nice girls, and if they saw me when the mean girls were not present, they were always civil. You know, it was the nicer girls I resented the most. I knew that they knew better. They came from good families and were raised right, yet when they were with the other two, they were just as mean. In my mind they weren’t just mean, they were hypocrites. I really had the most difficult time forgiving them.
After I read the bitter words that I had originally written, I did some reflecting. I had to thank God for allowing this experience in my life because by His grace this changed me. Because of this, I purposed in my heart through those times to never treat anyone like that. I was determined that when I was a senior, I would treat the younger kids with kindness and respect. You know what? I did.
Had I not gone through this bullying experience, I may have thought the minor torturing of the younger kids was just fun and games. I may have done the same things as the two girls who would just go along with the meanness of others. Instead, I knew what it was like, and I really became a champion of the underdog. I still am today! So I forgave those girls in my heart, and I appreciate God showing me how they meant it for evil in my life, but God used it for good!
Wow, Esther…that was awful, what they did to you! You’re a very good example, though, of forgiving those who have wronged you. I have a hard time with that, still. It’s very cool to see how God uses things from earlier in our lives to craft us into the person he wants us to be, isn’t it?
Wow, Esther! What a lesson to us all. “So I forgave those girls in my heart, and I appreciate God showing me how they meant it for evil in my life, but God used it for good!” It would do us all well to remember that when we have problems with other people. And, to allow and specifically LOOK FOR ways to use our trying times for God’s glory.
Thank you for sharing this! I’m sure it was painful to relive it. Honestly? They might even be sorry now. There were a couple of kids that I wasn’t the nicest to in elementary school and in high school. (I Wasn’t mean. But I wasn’t nice, either. And not being nice is actually being mean, I guess) And I found these people on FB and apologized to them a couple of years ago telling them that I’m sorry for the hurt that I caused. Because I know from experience that it is a hurt that carries into adulthood.
I’m not patting myself on the back. It was the only right thing to do. I’m just telling you that because knowing that they might be remorseful might make it easier to continue to choose to forgive them 🙂
Athelda Ensley says
I can empathize here. The fact that I had a psychology expert in my house growing up, helped me with discussion. I still shutter of the 2+ years that I was bullyed in middle school.
Although it was a difficult time to live through, I’m glad I went through it. I think it contributed to the woman that I am now. The sympathy and sensitive heart that I have for others was sparked by my own suffering as a kid.
Dr Momi says
….and is the bitterness gone Esther?? It always amazes me how childhood hurts can carry into adulthood. And now the Holy Spirit is reminding me about a time in 8th grade that I was laughed at for how I was dressed. Oh…a little healing going on here. 🙂 (thanks for sharing)
Thanks for sharing. I totally know what you’re talking about. I was going to write a comment, but it kind of turned into a response blog post of my own… I hope you don’t mind! 🙂
Fortunately since I attended PCS (for others who might read this, the “C” stands for “Christian”) from preschool through senior year I never had to be “the new kid”, but unfortunately bullying was definitely present all of those years. I felt the brunt of it on many occasions, and even as a junior and senior I have memories of leaving school events early, bawling the whole drive home because it felt like I was all alone and everyone hated me. And I was no where near the “bottom of the food chain”.
For me the hardest part was when I realized how I had bullied a couple of kids, especially in upper elementary. One boy in 4th and 5th grade was made fun of all the time by almost everyone. I would try to never directly hurt him myself, but I completely allowed and joined in whenever my friends were present (which was most often). A few years later I learned that after he left PCS he attempted suicide around age 12. He survived and was able to get help and I ran into him at a youth conference in maybe 9th or 10th grade. I invited him to have lunch with me and I told him how sorry I was and how wrong we were for treating him the way we did. He insisted that it wasn’t my fault and that it was other people that were the worst. But I wouldn’t let myself off the hook because I knew how cowardly and hypocritic I had been. I 100% knew better and it bothered me at the time, yet I was too selfish to speak up because I might have lost a friend or two. So when I got the second chance, I asked for his forgiveness and he gladly gave it. I am so thankful to have had that moment for both of us.
PCS wasn’t all bad, and I remember one particular year that a whole group of seniors were my best friends even though I was a freshman and the age of an 8th grader. So there was a little hope! 🙂
I never forgot how great it was to have “old” friends and all through high school I made a point to be friends with any person that wanted to be my friend, no matter age or “social weirdness” factor. It didn’t hit me how big of an impact I had made until my graduation party when a large amount of people that showed up were in junior high. I’ll never forget one sixth grade boy, whom I barely knew, came to my party and gave me $20. I found out mine was the only graduation party he attended that year… because I was the only one that invited him. I was floored to realize how huge of an impact I had made on him by simply not ignoring him and choosing to love everyone.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” ~1 Corinthians 13:1
Sticky Little Fingers says
I love how even the most painful experiences in our lives we wouldn’t change because of what we learned from it. In the moment we might pray for God to take the pain away and wonder why He doesn’t always answer right away. It’s because He sees more than we do, although it pains Him to watch us suffer, we need these experiences to grow. There are many times I was able to use an experience to help someone else who was going through the same thing. That’s what I love about the atonement, Christ suffered for the pains and afflictions of the world, therefore He knows exactly what we are going through. We always have someone who can relate to us.
Susan Evans says
It’s interesting that you mention recognizing sin in yourself after writing something down. The same thing has happened to me. I’m glad you were able to let go of the pain, and that it made you a better person. This was a powerful post. Well done.
Isn’t it interesting how the things that happen to our children resonate with something in our past that need resolving?
Sometimes there are issues or events that we think nothing of, or that we failed to take a closer look at – but our kids manage to pull it out of us. And then we’re forced to take a closer look.
Blue Cotton Memory says
Growing up looking like I was related to bugs bunny led to taunting – on the school bus, in the class room, on the play ground – and it made me bury my nose in a book – and it cracked my heart, breaking it so that good things would pour out, things like compassion, reaching out to others, encouragement – and learning to forgive meanness. I do remember in Girl Scouts, some of these mean girls were going to pick on another in the group – pull the chair out from under her when she sat down. They planned it, getting ready to do it and I ended up doing it to the leader and said, “Now you know what that’s like.” I think I got in trouble – but it was worth it.
kelli zaniel says
That is awful you had to endure that kind of treatment! But I love when God brings things around full circle in our life. The moment he shows us the reality of the “whys” in our life. He reveals the shaping and molding through it all. Glad it’s over for you and glad you found the treasure underneath!:) Love the pictures of the kids!:)
I’ve been there, and now one of my daughter’s is experiencing it to a lesser degree as the new girl in school. I have to say it’s much tougher for me to see what she is enduring. We’ve taken all the appropriate action at school, but the experience has taken a toll. I’m glad to show her an example of what God can do with that pain. Thanks for sharing!
I’m so sorry you went through that – I can imagine the torment. Bullying is very real and very much alive, sadly. I saw a lot of it when I was working with teens. I wish kids could respect one another more.
Wow! What heartfelt and meaningful words you shared! I think we all have or have had someone in our lives that left a mark like that. Kudos to you for forgiving, reflecting, and moving on.
I loved this post, you are so right in what you said that if you hadn’t gone through it then you wouldn’t have a clear understanding of how it felt and be more compassionate towards others. It’s a great way to think, because I too was bullied and I hated it, but it has now made me a better person towards others.
Thanks for stopping by my blog! Following you back 🙂
So sorry you had to go through that. I was certainly not the most popular girl at my school, teased a little, but nothing like that. I’m glad you have found a way to use it for good – the world needs more people who stand up for the underdog and don’t let kids get teased, even if it seems minor.
Esther, what a sobering post to read. I pray my children are never bullied or bullies…so sad. I think you have a lot of grace about the situation and handled it in a Christ-like manner.
I’m sorry that you had to deal with that. I had my own experience with the mean girls and I don’t know why they were like that.
But, we can and did learn from it and move on to be nothing like them! 🙂
It’s amazing some of the things that we find we are still holding onto, even though it’s in our subconscious!
I’m glad that you could let it go, and that you got to learn from it…even though I’m sure it sucked!
I’m so sorry you experienced that and so glad you found some good in it! I also was bullied not as severely as I could have been but badly enough that it still hurts. I wrote about what I have learned about bullying from working for a long-term research study, with links to a really great series of articles on bullying I happened to find.
It is dreadful to read what girls are able to do to their peers. But what really stood out to me in this post is how well you handled it, how calmly you approached it and how you reasoned their appalling behavior. Even then you had all the makings of the well rounded woman you are today!
Wow that was not subtle bullying on any level – it was outright horrid bullying. I mean, they locked you in the freezer. This could have been a serious situation if they had not let you out. I’m sorry that happened to you. And yes, I think it’s possible to still retain deep feelings 25 years after something like that happened to you. One way to get over those feelings of bitterness is to do what you did – and write about it.
I’m so sorry you had to endure that, but very impressed that you were able to turn it around and make something positive out of it.
I wonder if those girls have regrets about their actions.
Wow, that is so terrible. I don’t understand how people can do things like that. I am no stranger to bullying — a kid in my neighborhood threatened to kill me when I was in elementary school, and I was picked on by kids and adults alike while growing up. I am really impressed by how you turned your experience into a positive. It’s not easy to forgive, but I am glad you’re a better person for it today. 🙂
Dawn B says
I have come here via Ann’s. This is an important post. Thanks for being brave enough to share this. The emotions that accompany such events can stay raw a long time. I guess you experienced that when you wrote about this the first time. I have about 5 posts sitting in draft mode on my blog’s dashboard for precisely the same reason. I attempted to write about something I had not quite come to terms with enough yet to write about in a Christian manner. Thanks for showing me I am not alone.
Visiting from babes in the bleachers. What a horrible time for you. I think it’s great you’ve taken the time to process it and release it. Our God is great!
Cindy Sexton says
Esther, I just ran across this post. Knowing you from that school, I had no idea you were going through this. I’m sorry, and I’m glad you found peace with it in your own way.
This post hurts my heart and I’ll tell you why.
When I was at the same boarding school you were, there was an asian student in my grade. He was teased terribly all the time. I hardly ever joined in because I was at the low end of the popularity food chain, but I can remember times I did say something snarky to him to impress the other kids, and because let’s face it, nobody wants to be the kid that’s picked on so you sometimes pick on others. I see his face and the smile he always had, which had to be a defense mechanism. I’m sure his parents sent him to that school for the education and christian companionship and then what did all of us christians do but torment him. His smile was not sad but his eyes always were. I can’t remember his name but if I ever run across it and contact info, I plan on apologizing for what I said and did and what everyone else said and did to him too. If I don’t ever find him, I will always remember this my whole life. I took it as a lesson too, just seeing how it hurt him, and vowed never to bully or torment anyone like that again.
Thanks for sharing your post and I’m so glad I ran across it. ~Cindy
Amy @mommetime says
I am so sorry this happened to you… bullying is awful! I don’t know if it is ‘just’ in certain people to bully; I recall once in Middle School a girl started calling me names, trying to intimidate me, she was relentless… one day I had all I was going to take, so I cornered her in the bathroom when she was by herself, just the two of us –I punched her in the nose. She left me alone after that… I have always, even at a very young age been champion of the underdog –I never bullied and never tolerated it from my friends. I am so glad more and more people are talking about it. I commend you for having the courage to talk about something that MUST be talked about.
So sorry to hear you had to go through that. Sounds so horrible! Bullying is horrible but you found grace, you found forgiveness and that is so inspiring. Thank you for sharing this.
So sorry to hear about your experience. I had my own mean girl experiences as a kid but they often pale in comparison to others I hear now. Your story of finding grace is an inspiration to those being bullied (and those bullying) now. Thank you for sharing.
Becoming SuperMommy says
I’m so sorry about your bullying experience. I was also bullying horrifically in school, but at least I could go home after all was said and done.
Have you heard about the Mom Pledge? It seems that bullying behavior keeps going into adulthood, and there’s a remarkable amount of mom bullies out there. The pledge is a really wonderful thing- you should check it out!
No, Esther, you would never have been like that, whether you experienced it or not. That’s my opinion. I don’t remember hearing about this. You never told your parents about it.
Jason Irish says
Your amazing! I am so blessed.