This is for those who have bore the scars of harsh words and been a target of one who believed the lie that sticks and stones would break their bones, but words would not hurt them…but they still do.
This is for those who have believed the lies of their abusers and bullies that they are not worth anything to this world, and so struggle to find their purpose and their self-worth in life.
This is for those who have tried time and again to accomplish their goals and dreams, but have gotten discouraged and are tempted to give up because of their naysayers and seemingly insurmountable obstacles in their way.
This is for those who want to help a loved one, a friend, an acquaintance or others who have endured verbal assault and abuse and don’t know how.
I can relate to all of you, as I bear the psychological and emotional scars of years of verbal assaults and bullying by some peers and authority figures. I don’t tell my story so that you will feel sorry for me. I tell this story because I am a survivor and hope that by sharing it that other survivors will also triumph over their abusers and be empowered to believe the beautiful truth that God has told them about themselves, and not the verbal assaults and lies of their abusers. I was told by an authority figure that I would never drive and basically not amount to anything. I was told in so many words that I would probably never hold a full time job, that part-time was already an accomplishment for me. I was mocked by several managers when I first learned to operate a register about 15 years ago, because I did so poorly. I was told by a “friend” that I shouldn’t learn to operate a register about a couple years ago because she didn’t think I could handle rude customers or the functions of a register. I was constantly bullied in elementary and middle school about my appearance, race and other things that I had little or no control over.
Today, I still bear some of the psychological and emotional scars of the verbal abuse that I had endured. However, God put several people in my life who helped me to heal and to finally achieve what my abusers and bullies thought I could not. Because of these and other encouragers, I am happy to say that I am on the road to recovery.
Two of the people that came in my life were my mentor Jane* and my former manager Elizabeth*. They both believed in me when others did not. They saw what I could be, and not what I used to be or was. When I asked Elizabeth if I could train to be on the registers, she allowed me to train at least once a week for about 20-30 minutes. Not only that, but she allowed me ample time to acquaint myself with the functions of the register until I could do it efficiently and accurately. She was patient with me and my anxieties, unlike my ex-friend and others who basically told me to just give up on my dreams. My mentor Jane helped me to silence the naysayers and verbal abusers that were in my life by instilling in me a dogged determination and motivation to chase after my dreams. She never gave up on me, or let me give up on myself. For instance, she called various employment agencies to help me get a job in the first place and pushed me to learn how to drive myself without being afraid of failure or getting into an accident. When I got my first job (albeit part-time), I was already immensely grateful to Jane of what she had helped me accomplish. Then, I got another part time job that about seven months later became full time, and that is where I have been ever since. I am extremely indebted to her that I have been able to stay with the company I am at for over five years, which is almost an eternity in retail.
I have learned so much from these two amazing and gracious women. One of the most important things I learned from them is to never give up on yourself even if everyone else gives up on you. To anyone who still has self-worth issues because of the verbal abuse you have endured: Do not give up on yourself! You are not worth what these abusers say you are. They have critical spirits. My pastor said (and I agree with him) that a critical spirit is one who say things to others in order to destroy them or tear them down. Often what is coming out of the mouths of those with a critical spirit towards you are lies from the pit of hell itself. In fact, in John 10:10 (KJV), Jesus referring to the devil as a thief, says Satan comes “but for to steal, and to kill and to destroy.” You could say that the people putting you down with a critical spirit are working with the devil! Don’t believe them. The devil is a defeated foe! And so will everyone who works with him to tear others down.
More importantly, these women have taught me that God can still use people who have failed or don’t meet the expectations of others. During the time when I was too afraid to drive and was struggling to find consistent work, I never thought God could use me the way He has. I thought I was going to have to rely on others for almost everything and that I was never going to make any real contribution to society. However, God has proven over and over again that He works miracles and that there is hope to overcome past trauma and failures and learn from them. It may be a long road to healing, but even starting on that path is very much worth it as I can attest today. Even telling your story of how you survived past trauma and lived to tell about it is a big accomplishment.
I hope by telling my story that those who have endured abuse and survived will share their stories of how they have endured and triumphed and give hope to others who are still struggling and are still being oppressed by their abusers. Because by telling our stories, we have the power to create awareness of what our abusers wanted to silence for so long.
*=names have been changed to protect the privacy of the people mentioned.
I love my friend’s podcast. He has given me so much insight about life and hope for my own. One of the things I remember him saying in the podcast was how society/people in life have ingrained fear into our lives. I realize now that many of the fears that I instilled in myself and that society has instilled in me are lies from the pit of hell. They have crept into my life, wrecking havoc and paralyzing me to the point where the joy of life was sucked out from beneath me.
One of the biggest fears that I have continually struggled with is fear of failure. I fear losing my job so much that I did everything in my power to be the best at everything at my job, and when I failed, I went into a meltdown. When I did poorly in a school assignment, sometimes I would hide my bad grades from my parents, not only so that they wouldn’t get upset at me, but also because of the shame that I felt from my bad grade. I do everything in my power to be Christlike sometimes, not to glorify God, but because I am afraid of what would happen if I failed. Would I get kicked out of church? Would I ruin my testimony so much that God would not be able to use me anymore for any good in others’ lives or even my own? Even with this fear of failure, there have already been times when I have failed in each of these areas. I believe God is teaching me that even if I fail, He can still use me and my failures for my good and for His glory. Even if I do lose my job, either because I got fired or laid off for some reason, God will inevitably lead me to another one or provide another way for my needs to be met. God is teaching me that even if I try my best at work and fail, that there will be other days to make it up. Also, if I continue doing my best at work and in life, God will inevitably bless and grow me into a reflection of His image and character.
Another fear that I have struggled with for so long is fear of what others may think of me. Another word for this is “fear of man”. I have constantly tried to please others so that people would think much of me and so I wouldn’t lose their love and respect. However, when people saw my flaws, some of them proved that they didn’t really like the Real Me anyway. God has been teaching me that it is not beneficial or right for me to vie for the love of people all the time, that everyone has different expectations, and that some people are just not good confidants for me. God is also teaching me to let go of those relationships which neither the other person nor me can be built up, and to nurture those where I am more free to be myself and where I have opportunities to build the other person up.
Yet another fear I have struggled with since childhood is the fear of suffering. I have been afraid of suffering because I am afraid that I would not handle it well and that it would last, in my mind, “too long.” However, God has been reminding me that it does get better and that I need to trust Him more when I am in the midst of a trial instead of questioning His care and love for me. God also reminds me that He can help me overcome the trial and help me to be able to glorify Him through it.
When I think of being free from these fears, I feel so much exhilarating joy and hope! When I am free from my fears, I can then be completely who God made me to be, without fear of the repercussions of it, because I know He will be pleased.
April 1999 was one of the darkest months of my life. Not only did my future faith hero, Rachel Joy Scott, die during this month, but I was ready to throw in the towel on my own life as well. In fact, in one of my journal entries, dated April 9 of that year, I had written: I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. […] If I could only find that zest, that greatness, life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?
To the outside world, I had it easy, but inside I was crumbling at the seams. Not only was my academic load at school getting heavier and more pressured, but I also had to deal with an abusive teacher that nearly killed my soul. Moreover, I felt alienated from my family and felt that they couldn’t relate to my problems, and I had few friends, and theydidn’t know me well enough to really delve into the pain I held deep inside. Feelings of insecurity, hopelessness and overwhelm. I never imagined that I would ever make anything out of my life, as my verbally abusive teacher had claimed in so many words to me. I had little hope that my circumstances would ever improve or that anything would be or could be any different.
But when Jesus rescued me from the pit of despair and disillusionment the next year, He would change my life forever. I would find that zest life was supposed to hold, but it wasn’t in me. It was in Him!
How did Jesus change my life? How did He help me? Well, as the Anne Wilson song goes, “Let me tell you about my Jesus” and how He changed me.
Nearly twenty one years later, I sit in my room, and despite back pain, I am content with my life. Jesus has brought many supportive people into my life who have been there for me through the ups and downs of my life recently. I do want my physical pain to end and to be the end of all pain and suffering in this world, not only for me, but for all those around me. However, I know and trust that Jesus is with me through it and that He will give me the strength I need to persevere and to live for His glory.
Recently, my former pastor wrote me something that I thought was very wise and gives me hope in trials: Remember as believers our suicide is dying for self and living for Christ. Why not consider yourself dead and obey God?
So here I am, twenty one years later, still dealing with physical pain and in the grips of pandemic protocol, while Jesus is stripping away the selfish, insecure, overwhelmed, feeling-hopeless me, into a bright light that shines to the world for Him.
Jesus can change anyone’s life. Even if you feel that your circumstances will never change, remember how God entered into my life twenty years ago and transformed my life forever. He can do the same for you!
If you or someone you love is feeling hopeless or suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at: 800-273-8255. There IS hope when you are alive,. and there is help out there!
I can somewhat relate to Simone Biles, but on a smaller scale, of course. I can relate to the feelings of being overwhelmed and being pressured to be the Best by oneself and those around you. I can also relate to the feeling that you have let everyone down if and when you fail. I can relate to the burdens of having to conform to 1,080 (a hyperbolic estimate) or so expectations of you placed by those around you. However, God used my feelings of stress and overwhelm to teach me many things about being human and coming back stronger.
Last year, in late October, I became so overwhelmed with the pressures and stress of work that I had to take a leave of absence from work. I had just moved from the state where I lived in all my life, about six months prior, and suddenly I felt like everyone had just abandoned me because I didn’t meet their expectations. Additionally, since this was in the midst of the pandemic, I could not attend church or meet new people. I thought my life was over.
However, even though I had significant stress even in my leave, one of the good things God brought me from this situation is to make time for self-care. Often, Olympic athletes like Simon Biles and Kerri Strug are pressured to do so much for others’ viewing pleasure that they are forced to neglect rest and self-care. This needs to change. The Bible says self-love is wrong and is one of the negative qualities listed in 2 Timothy 4. However, I don’t think the Bible means that taking care of one’s physical and emotional health is wrong. What I think was meant by that passage in 2 Timothy is one that is self-indulgent to the point where they neglect others’ needs or that they love themselves in such a way that they become vain and self-serving. Also, not taking care of one’s own emotional and physical needs in order to meet someone else’s expectations could also be considered the self-love that is condemned in the Bible because we are withholding part of ourselves just so that people would see us a certain way or as stronger than we really are.
Another good thing that I learned during my time off work last year is to not worry so much about other people’s expectations of me. One of the things my friend Alex taught me is to be more comfortable in being who God has created me to be, and to weed out those who try to change me into the image that they think I should be. What if we valued these Olympic athletes, and more importantly, those we say we love and cherish the most, by demonstrating in word and deed that they are loved unconditionally? After all, the Lord also loves us unconditionally. It even says in Romans 5:8, “ But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (KJV).” Even when we were yet sinners, God loved us. Even when we were actively rejecting Him and His ways, He still loved us.
I still struggle with not worrying about others’ expectations of me, but I am seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. I am becoming more confident in how God made me, and this has in turn made me more able to minister to others who are struggling.
Through this trial, God also taught me to not be paralyzed by my fears. He has helped me through times even more recently where I felt like my performance at work wasn’t as good as it could be, and not delve into the belief that I am a complete failure. God has made me realize that being true to myself and glorifying Him are more important than meeting all the metrics that people may expect me to meet. Yes, I still want to do the best I can at work performance-wise, but I don’t want to stress if I cannot do as well as I (or others) may expect or want of me. I can also remember what one of my managers said to me, “ I assure you that all of the management team know your work ethic and how consistent you are so don’t stress out if you have a slower [performance] occasionally.”
I also wish all the Olympians and anyone else who feels pressured to perform at a certain rate would know that it is OK to fail sometimes or not be able to be the Best all the time. I wish those around them would remind them that they are still worthy as human beings even when they show vulnerabilities and shortcomings because we all do. No human is perfect, but every human has intrinsic value. That is what I ultimately learned during my time off work last year.
God has taught me so much over the last year or so since the pandemic started. One of the most significant lessons He has taught me is how to be more real both to Him and to those around me.
It’s always refreshing to be able to be around those who are honest in both their character and their demeanor. Being genuine, or real, to me involves possessing these characteristics. A lack of or deficiency in these traits may indicate a lack of authenticity in a person.
Being real involves a willingness to be honest about who you really are–The most genuine people don’t only talk about the best parts of their personality or their lives, but they show the tough stuff that they have gone through as well. A good example of this is my friend Alex, who has revealed himself real and raw whenever he shares something with me or the world. Several of my pastors have also strived to be genuine by revealing their struggles with sin and temptation, as well as how they have overcome some of them, and how they are constantly working to become more godly. They don’t lord over people or have a holier-than-thou persona.
Being real involves being able to be honest about how you are really feeling.–Nothing is more surface than answering the question of “How are you?” with a flat “fine,” especially if that is not the case. What’s even worse is when someone is trying to answer the “How are you?” question honestly, and the person asking the question blows them off and doesn’t really care for their true answer. When you create an environment that is free of judgment, ridicule and condemnation and really take the time to care about how a person really feels about something, the more likely the person will be willing to share their authentic feelings about a situation.
Being real involves losing the need to always impress people and instead just be our true selves.–I felt that my one ex-friend always wanted to impress me with her “holiness” and her supposed religiosity. I finally saw through that, and now that is one of the reasons why she is now my EX-friend. If a person consistently expects you to impress them with a certain type of persona instead of being who you really are, including your flaws and foibles, chances are they are toxic to be around. You should probably show them the door. Either way, we should strive to be our true selves around those we care about in order to free them to be who they really are. The people who truly love us will want to know our real selves, and not just the persona you are trying to create to impress them or the persona you feel you must show to the general public.
Being real is crucial to building trust and maintaining good and lasting relationships with others. If you cannot be who you really are, then people are really not getting to know the real you. If they like “you” they are not liking the Real You, only the image of who they think “you” are. When people are acting fake or hypocritical to me, it feels like they are lying to me because in a sense they are. When one lies, they erode whatever trust I had in them. When one is authentic, however, it is one of the most refreshing, elating and freeing experiences one can ever experience in life.
Some rules have had a legalistic effect on me. Instead of reminding me of boundaries to keep me from sinning, many of the world’s rules have put unnecessary burdens and pressures on me, and have restricted my expression of who God made me to be. However, I am also not talking about all of the world’s rules necessarily, but those in particular that only serve to bog down (i.e…red tape, so to speak) or that really only serve those with privilege and power.
An example of those kind of rules are man-made morality rules such as not being allowed to cry at certain times or rules for autistics like me about what kind of stims are “acceptable” to society. These rules are found nowhere in Scripture or any other religious holy book that I know. To be honest, most of these rules only serve to ease the discomfort of people who are considered more “normal” or privileged, so they don’t have to confront or serve those who have some kind of marginalized identity. For instance, there is this unspoken rule that one is not allowed to cry at work. I understand the rule if it keeps us from serving the people we are paid to serve, but how about a worker crying in the breakroom or in a certain office space where there are no clientele around?! What if said worker’s family member or spouse just died? What if the boss was so overtly critical of them, that the worker was so filled with anguish and anger and did not want to spew words of anger at the boss, so he or she just cried? Yes, it may make some people around them a little uncomfortable, but what if a crying co-worker or subordinate would also teach us how to be more compassionate and caring of others in need? If we refused to abide by another unspoken, man-made social rule that we are supposed to either ignore or stare at those “crazy” people who have cried at work or in public, and instead compassionately try to help and comfort them? What if we killed the expectation that people are supposed to have everything all figured out and hold it all together for everyone, and hide all the pain they feel inside, just so we don’t feel uncomfortable? What if because they tried to follow this expectation to hold everything together and “be strong” they one day completely shut down or explode, tired of wearing a façade 24/7?
Another example of this kind of rule is the expectation that one must never talk to oneself out loud. First of all, we talk to ourselves all the time in our heads, anyway. Second of all, it can restrict creative artistic expression. Sometimes, when we talk to ourselves it can help us figure out things in our lives, like correcting erroneous ways of thinking or helping us figure out how we will do a difficult tasks as we talk through the instructions to ourselves. However, some people think it is “weird” or “inappropriate,” and I have heard some people even fear people who talk to themselves. Why? Talking to oneself does not equate to committing an act of murder or adultery. Yes, it may be outside of the “norm,” but who determines what is normal, and how does just talking to oneself hurt other people?! I am convinced some rules are just there to ease the privileged’ discomfort and of them having to confront a unique and/or hurting world.
However, God’s rules are never supposed to have this legalistic effect. God’s rules, in contrast, bring one into an awareness of one’s sinfulness and into a magnitude of His grace for you, even if you break one, some, or all of His rules at some point. Also, God’s rules do not restrict freedom of expression to who He has made you to be.
God’s rules, or commandments, still allow my Gonzo-ness to come out without restraints of anything other than His perfect and good moral guidelines. It is when people add to His rules things that were never mentioned by Him or things that just burden people under the red-tape of legalistic and nonsensical obligations that our uniqueness and beauty as people are stifled.
Jesus says in Matthew 11:29-30: Take my yoke upon me and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light (KJV). His yoke are the commandments we are expected to obey as we abide in Him by His power and grace. If you find that following certain commands have become burdensome and demanding, then maybe part or all of the rule that you are following does not come from Him, but are probably man-made in some way.
There has been much division and enmity in this country between Republicans and Democrats, Blacks and Whites, Immigrants and people who have been born here, and between many other societal identifiers. Then, my good online friend introduced to me to Fraggle muppets, and in particular, Gonzo, who embodies who I would like to be like in some ways.
For years, I have struggled to accept who God created me to be. When I was growing up, I was on the outside looking in, and frantically trying to achieve good grades in my classes to somehow someday be truly loved and accepted as I am, and, in turn, accept myself as well.
Though I still struggle sometimes with accepting myself as God created me to be, when I discovered Gonzo and more of who he was and is as a Muppet “Whatever”/alien, I realized many things about appreciating and embracing diversity, including my own.
Gonzo is a very unique creature with a personality that can be described as “eccentric,” “eclectic” or “weird.” However, Gonzo also strives to embrace his life and those around him fully. Gonzo is secure enough in who he is as a Whatever/Alien that he doesn’t try to change his personality or being just to be approved or accepted by others. Gonzo’s personality and attitude toward life has taught me that I am GOOD the way I am. I don’t mean to say that I don’t struggle daily with sin (I do) and that I should not try to change my sinful ways and repent of them (I should). However, what I mean is that the way God created me is inherently good. Also, I do not have to constantly seek approval or validation from other people to confirm this fact. Also, if people do not like the way I am, and it is not for some sin I committed against them, but for something that is a part of how I was wired, I do not have to doubt if I am worthy to be alive or if God truly loves me or not.
Gonzo and his friends have also taught me some important lessons about how to truly love others. When we truly love others, we will accept them for who God created them to be without trying to change them into something they are truly not. Gonzo’s friends, and especially his girlfriend, Camilla, who is a chicken, do not really care if he is weird and do not really try to change him into being more “normal.” Also, my real friends and others who are on Team Me will embrace me the way Gonzo’s friends have. If I am a really friends with someone else, I will not try to change them into the person I want them to be if that is not how God created them or how they were wired by Him in the first place. I will love them unconditionally. Gonzo also demonstrates this to his girlfriend Camilla by not trying to stop her from expressing herself in “chicken talk” or by forcing her to change some aspect of how she was already created. Even though Gonzo and Camilla are very different from each other, they truly love each other even and because of their unique qualities.
We should too. Instead of having enmity against the other “side,” so to speak, maybe we should seek to understand where they are coming from. Instead of mocking or shaming the “weird” or “eccentric,” or letting other people bully or mock them, we should stand up for these unique individuals and learn from them. Maybe, we could make a new friend. After all, there is a Gonzo-like uniqueness in all of us that helps us embrace life fully, with all that there is.
As some of you may know, I am in the process of writing a
memoir about things that I have had to overcome to be who I am now. One of the toughest parts to write so far has
been a period in my life where I couldn’t see the light at the end of the
tunnel, and when I felt like I had little hope or future in my life. Those were
my middle school years—when I was about 12-14 years old. Sometimes, I wish I knew all that I know now,
back then, so that I wouldn’t have been so miserable and hopeless. However, if I didn’t go through what I did
back then, I would have never become the person I am today either. If I could go back and mentor my middle
school self, this is what I would advise her:
God will always bring good out of suffering.–If I knew that all the pain, heartache, and hopelessness that I felt when I was in middle (J.R. high school) school was going to amount to something even half-good, I would have not felt as miserable as I did. The fact is because of the bullying and the pain I experienced in middle school, I am better equipped to help others who are struggling similarly. Because God and others helped me overcome the pain I endured before, my story can give others hope that, they, too can reach the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. In fact, if you are struggling right now, or have struggled, and you don’t know if these challenges are going to add up to anything good, know that your story can one day give others who are struggling, hope, if you don’t give up now. Many times during that dark period in my life I wanted to commit suicide, but God, in His sovereign wisdom did not allow me. Thank God He didn’t, or else I wouldn’t be here sharing this!
If people don’t accept you for you, don’t try to please them or let them rent space in your life.—In middle school, I struggled to gain the acceptance and the close friendship of my peers. All in all, though I may have appeared happy, I was really dying inside. I tried to learn from them sometimes in an attempt to mimic their behaviors, so I would be more “acceptable,” but it never seemed like it was enough. The same people I wanted to impress probably saw through me, and, in the end, I was still in the same spot I was in the first place—lonely and unacceptable to my peers. Now, I have learned that if people want me to change things that are part of how God made me, like how I look on the outside (like my ethnicity), or don’t want to accept that I am an INFJ on the spectrum, that I should not put stock in trying to please them. In fact, I have had to let go of several people in the past ten years that haven’t really accepted me for who God made me to be. It really is better to be hated for who you are, then “loved” for who you are not, as people will find out the Real You anyway. Be authentic to yourself and others.
Grades aren’t everything.—I was so fixated on grades, that when I did poorly, I was deathly afraid that I would make my dad livid and more so, that I would flunk out of school. Even though I tried my best to do well in school, and had decent grades, they had absolutely ZERO impact on helping me find the job I have now! Some teachers may say to a student who is struggling that if they don’t improve, they will end up working at “McDonalds.” What these teachers don’t understand is that one could make decent grades and graduate from a half-way decent college, and STILL work at McDonalds! Also, someone could graduate with a “C” average in school, but end up making millions of dollars in acting or even starting their own business if they know what they are doing. I would still advise my middle school self to work diligently in school, but not get too anxious if I failed one test!
Having convictions and drive will make you more successful in life than if you are just “getting by.”—Although I worked hard in school, I only did so to make my parents happy and for fear of failure. However, I have discovered in the past few years that my attitude back then is similar to how many people view their jobs, as just a way to “get by”. Yes, we should make sure we are making enough money in our jobs to make ends meet, but it shouldn’t be about just that. Although I don’t make even close to a million dollars a year at my job, I still strive to go above and beyond and do the best I can every single day. Why? Because I want to glorify God and show people that working diligently can be a more satisfying and enriching learning experience if you approach your job as a calling, and not only to make money. Because I am convinced God has placed me in my job to impact a certain group of people for a reason, I am more motivated to do my best, even when I may not get a raise for years. If I approached my school as a calling, rather than just trying to gain the acceptance of love of people who were already set in their opinion of me, I think I would have been a lot happier.
I am convinced that if I had learned these lessons in middle
school, I would not have struggled as much back then. However, I am glad that I
did eventually learn these lessons, though, sometimes, like other things I have
learned, sometimes I need to go back and review them. I am glad for these lessons, because without
them, I would have never grown into the person I am today. And I am glad for the God that helped me