Effects of Bullying

Disclaimer: Absolutely no disparaging comments about the author or any other bullying survivors  Triggers for talk of abuse, references to suicidal thoughts, and talk of bullying.

Bullying can impact almost anyone, regardless of any human identifier, though it is more likely to happen to those that society perceives as “different” or “inferior” in some way.  According to the website, StopBullying.gov, from about 1 in 3 up to 1 in 4 students in the United States has experienced bullying (U.S Department of Health, Facts about Bullying).  Unfortunately, I am part of these statistics, having been bullied at school since the third grade until about the ninth grade, though there were several incidents of more sporadic bullying later as well, in my life.  Bullying has many forms, including verbal abuse and taunts, social exclusion, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and other related abuses.  The effects of bullying can be devastating and life-altering for the survivor of such behavior.  People experience bullying and are affected by this demoralizing behavior in different ways and in different degrees. No two people have exactly the same bullying experiences in their lives. However, many of them share similar effects.

However, this is my story of how being bullied for years has impacted me personally. I share these three major effects of being bullied, not so people feel sorry for me, but so that people will realize the gravity of this demoralizing behavior and that more people will not have to experience what I went through.

Effect#1 of me being bullied—Low self-esteem/insecurity

In third grade up to eighth grade, I was regularly teased and mocked because of the clothes I wore, the way I wore my hair, and even how I looked like on the outside.  I don’t remember one classmate or teacher at that time tell me that I was “beautiful.”  Some of them even wanted to “re-make” me into their image of what they thought was acceptable, not accepting the way I was made or looked like.  To add to this torment, I did not feel very close to any of my peers during that time.  Some people would pretend to be friends with me, only to have them callously “reject” me later.

As a result of this torment that I experienced during my childhood years in school, I have struggled (and still struggle) immensely with insecurity and low self-esteem.  For instance, when I get criticized or put down (especially harshly) , even by strangers, I often get a sense of discouragement and hurt.  It’s like I am unconsciously keeping in mind the times when my classmates and even teachers taunted me for either my appearance or something that was a struggle for me. Like people who have been abused by family members, criticism can be especially hard to take by people who have been mercilessly bullied by peers and even authority figures in school.  We can tend to take criticism as rejection of who we are as a person, rather than something we just need to correct to become a better person.

Another result of this torment that I had experienced was the feeling that what I do is never “good enough.”  I am a tenacious person. I do not give up easily, but sometimes never feeling like you measure up to any good standards can threaten to undermine my tenacity.  I sometimes (wrongly) think, “Why even try when no one will accept you and your work anyway?”  I struggle with the concept of doing good just because it’s the “right thing to do” sometimes, because I feel that if we are not rewarded in some way and if we are not going to change anyone else’s lives for the better, then why do anything good at all? Sometimes, I felt that if I just did x then the bullying would stop and that people would love me as I was.  This is another effect of being bullied by others.

Effect#2—Fear of trusting God and others/paranoia

When I was little, I had a very trusting nature. However, people would use that to take advantage of me and hurt me for their own pleasure.  For instance, they promised if I gave them x thing, then they would be my friend. So, I did, but they just continued to belittle me or ignore me.  Because a lot of people pretended with me, and were not very honest or genuine towards me, I began to have a blanket paranoia of almost everyone around me. By high school, I was dubbed in my last year there, as “most paranoid.” Moreover, some well–meaning friends tell me to “believe the best in people,” not knowing that I have had a history of being bullied and taken advantage of by others by doing just that! However, to their credit, when I become paranoid, everyone seems evil and self-aggrandizing in my eyes, and I become cynical and bitter. I have met and talked to some abuse and bullying survivors that have had similar experiences of becoming paranoid and cynical to the world around them because of how many times they have been abused and taken for a ride, so to speak. This paranoia has also led me to sometimes have this immense fear of what people think of me and could do to me.

Effect#3—Depression

Ever since I was little, I have also struggled with depression.  Because of my experiences of people bullying me and simultaneously excluding me from their gatherings, I felt this impending sense that no one outside my family would really want to know me as a person, with both my blessings and flaws that I bring to this world.  No one wanted to know my story.  I felt alone, bored, and miserable, especially during my early teenage years. I struggled with several mental health issues that I tried to keep hidden from the outside world and deny, even to myself, that I had.  It has been said that bullying increases the risk of suicide in its victims. Yes, people have died from the torment that they endured from being bullied at school by their peers and others.  This is why the fact that there is no law against bullying is a sad indicator of what our society values more. (U.S Department of Health, Facts about Bullying)

Healing

However, because of the supports that has been graciously provided for me through a variety of means, I am happy to say I am beginning to heal from the effects of being bullied.  However, this has taken many, many years.  I am thankful for the consistent support that I have received thus far from my friends, both near and far, for my co-workers and managers at my current job, for my mentor J, and last, but most importantly, support from my family and my God.  Because they have believed in me and encouraged me, I am slowly able to heal from the years of pain inflicted on me in the past. Though I still struggle with these effects, I have great hope that things will continue to get better for me.  If you have been bullied, please know that you are not alone and that there is hope for you. If you are reading this and are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-8255 (Suicide Prevention Hotline). Remember, there is always hope when you are alive.

Source:  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  (September 28, 2017). Facts about Bullying. Retrieved from: https://www.stopbullying.gov/media/facts/index.html.

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The Light -a poem

Pain ebbs from your soul

Till it threatens

To consume you whole

Hidden from the light

 

The light of revelation

The light bringing jubilation

All because of the fear of rejection

Buried somewhere deep inside

 

But God sees

Our private pain

That threatens

To drive us insane

 

He sees a hurting heart

And an aching soul

Begging to be whole

And feel loved again

He pushes us

To a place of healing

And a place of revealing

Our pain to the light

Letter to My 13 Year Old Self

Dear 13 Year Old Me,

I know things have been difficult for you lately, and you feel that there is little meaning and purpose to your life.  You feel that no one would want to get to know the Real You if they found out all about you.  You feel that in order to be truly loved and accepted, you would have to be reasonably thin and look like a model in the magazines and in the movies. In other words, you have to not only be perfectly sociable, you have to look the part too, if there ever was such a thing.  Consequently, because you don’t measure up to these standards, you think that is why you don’t have any friends—or any confidence in who you are and what you are becoming.

You have a lot of other stressors too.  You just moved to a new house, and will move to a new school soon. The old house hasn’t sold yet, so your parents are busy with that and have less time for you.  You also feel the need to keep your grades up because you don’t want your parents to get upset at you and you want to be able to compete with the intelligence of your very smart younger brother.

You want to give up, or at least wish all these problems away. You want to run away from them because life is becoming increasingly unbearable for you.  Even in the midst of all the stress and anguish that you are facing, let me tell you, there is still hope for you.  Don’t you give up on life! I know it is very tough right now, but things WILL get better. I promise.

In fact, three years later, you will meet the Greatest Friend there is—Jesus Christ!  He won’t give a care how you look like or how sociable you are.  He will accept you. Just. as. you. are. He will change your life for the better. No longer will you have to worry about being loved and accepted by your peers and other people in your life, but you will be more and more secure in who you are because Jesus loves you!

You won’t have to worry about competing with your brother for grades. Heck, grades won’t even matter nine or ten years from now! You will even have a full-time job, though it will be different from what you imagine it to be, and even though it will be tough to get at first. God will make you and your brother successful in your own ways, so you won’t worry about competing with him anymore.

Moreover, you won’t have to rely on your parents alone or even your brother for affection and attention, because God will provide you with many friends. Though God will always be your Ultimate Friend, these other friends will help you see the goodness and love of God ever more clearly. Best of all, you will be able to open up about yourself more without fear of rejection or criticism because it won’t bother you anymore. God will always be with you, and He is the One that will ultimately matter the most to you.

Finally, don’t give up because God will do something great and wonderful in your life if you let Him. Your love for everyone and everything (except, of course, the devil and the evil in this world) will overflow to others. You will experience joy in your life like never before!

Keep going! God will help you through this!

Love,

Patricia (in her 30s)

Why Lying Hurts You

Lying is so prevalent in today’s society that it is often difficult to know who to trust. From the “little white lie” to the lies of a more serious nature, not telling the truth hurts everyone, including the speaker of the lie. Here is how lying hurts you and why honesty really is the best policy. :

  1. Lying destroys relationships.—When you lie to someone with whom you are supposed to have a close relationship, such as a family or a close friend, lying creates a barrier between you and the other person. Not only that but if that person finds out that you had lied to them, they won’t trust you anymore or believe anything you say to them, even if that time you were telling the truth. Trust is essential to a good relationship. If you don’t trust someone, you won’t want to be with them. Lying destroys relational bonds.
  2. Lying corrupts your character.—When one consistently lies to others, their character becomes corrupted, and eventually, ruined! For instance, this effect is illustrated in Scripture when King David lies to himself and to Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, in order to cover up his adultery with Bathsheba. Then, because Uriah does not want to go back to his wife (and so David’s adultery would not be covered), David has Uriah killed in battle! After Nathan confronts David and David repents, he (David) still feels the effects of his lie, when one of his sons, borne by Bathsheba, turns against him to usurp his kingship, forcing David to hide from his son. In a modern example, Harvey Weinstein is accused of being sexually abusive to many women. If he had admitted his fault publically with the first woman he is alleged to have abused or had an affair with, he and his company would not be in the trouble they are in today. Instead, he intimidated them further by trying to silence them and lied to himself and others by telling them, in essence, that it was “acceptable” or “ok” behavior, when he knew it was not!
  3. Lying is presumptuous and arrogant.—Lying to others (or even yourself), shows contemptible pride because it refuses to face reality and be genuine. When we lie to ourselves and others, we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable, a necessary component of growth and positive change. We are trapped in our own delusions. When we lie, we refuse to confront reality in the eye and do the hard work of beginning to make necessary changes to our character and situation. This is because lying often casts you in a better light than we really are.

These are some ways that lying hurts you. So, if you don’t want your name or reputation to be tarnished if you want others to be able to trust you, and if you want to avoid becoming arrogant and presumptuous, be honest. Honesty really is the best policy of life. Who can you be completely genuine with today? Discuss in comments.

Biggest Lie Society Taught Me To Believe (and how to counter it)

Disclaimer: This post is inspired by a question asked of writer Todd Brison on Quora. You can find his website here.

The lie that society has taught me to believe since I was about two years old when I was rejected by people at a daycare center, is that one’s worth is dependent on how much you accomplish and/or are to other people. Maybe there are some of you who have or are still believing this very lie. It’s easy to believe, especially if you live in a developed country like I do. The phrase “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps,” comes from this mentality. It says that, basically, we should be self-made and need minimal, if any, help from others. This mentality also does not take into account or value those who are disabled or otherwise cannot do certain things all by themselves. It may see people who need help of any kind as  “weaker,” more “useless,” or somehow “less valuable,” than their able-bodied counterparts.  The only benefit to believing this lie is that it forces you to be diligent and not lazy. However, the drawbacks, in my mind, are not worth this benefit.  First of all, it devalues people. It not only devalues the disabled or sick but also everyone else because it reduces our worth to be only what we do and if we are “useful” to society or not. Racism and other forms of prejudice derive from this mentality that other people are worth less because of what they do or don’t do in society.  Also, this lie is a form of pride.  Believing this lie does not allow one to get the help and support they need, because of the stigma of shame and embarrassment of feeling “worthless”  if they admit they need help. If one accomplishes success in society’s eyes, this person may become arrogant and look down upon others. Finally, this lie sometimes influences people to spend their life on things that are not as essential, such as becoming a workaholic to the expense of his or her health and loved ones.  Because this society is accomplishment driven, some people may chase after money, power, sex, or work to the point of being obsessed with them and delve into becoming an addict, which is never good.  If this society based someone’s worth more on how they beautiful and unique they are, for instance, instead of just what they can contribute to society, this wouldn’t be such an issue.

Here are some ways we can counter this lie and its effects:

  1. Value people.–I have written several times on how we should value people. For these posts see this and this.  However, it is worth repeating.  One way we can value people more is to thank people for the good that they do to us and others. For instance, if you see a colleague or a boss take the initiative to help you with some of your work because they see it may overwhelm you, say ” Thank you. I appreciate your help.”  They are not obligated to help you, but the fact that they did anyway needs to be acknowledged not only for their sake but also for yours as well.  Another way we can value people is to encourage people when they feel upset or depressed. Tell and show people that they are still worthy of love even if they don’t accomplish everything they desire or hope.
  2. Demonstrate and encourage humility.–One way to demonstrate humility is to genuinely apologize when you make a mistake or offend someone. Never say, “I’m sorry, but…,” because you are just excusing what you did, which is not a real apology.  The correct way to apologize and make amends with someone you offended is to a.) I am sorry I did x and that I hurt you by doing x. I will promise to try to never do that again. Will you forgive me?” b.) Work to not only offer restitution for the loss the offended party incurred by your mistake or sin but also to never offend them again. Another way to show humility is to be willing to be vulnerable. Never be afraid to ask for someone else’s help or admit that you are not perfect.  Yes, it is a risk sometimes. Many people aren’t willing to be vulnerable because they are afraid of what others will think of them and that they will be rejected. That used to be me too in the past. Now, I am not so afraid anymore, because I now know that their opinion really doesn’t matter. It is what God thinks of me that really counts. Also, the people that reject us for being vulnerable and honest with them are probably insecure themselves, and striving to please them is really a waste of time because they will never be satisfied with anything we can give them anyway.
  3. Be successful in things that will matter for eternity, or for your eternal memory, not just on things that will only last in your earthly life.–Yes, it is good to be successful at one’s job or career, or get good grades. I don’t object to this at all. In fact, I encourage it!  However, what I’m saying is don’t focus so much on worldly success that you miss what really counts or what memory you will leave on this earth after your life ends.  In order to be truly successful, I believe one of the things people should focus on besides God is the relationships you have on this earth with other people. How are you treating those you profess to love or care about? This is something I think (me included) can do better. Do not be so focused on worldly goals that you miss the eternal and the spiritual, and your relational goals.

If we do these three things, this lie can be seen for the farce it is. People are inherently valuable, not because they can do a lot of good for us, or even the world, but because each person is unique and special in how they were created to be. Value and cherish others today, and never think that we are only as good as what we do.

On Love and Vulnerability

C.S Lewis once said the following: (source: Goodreads.com)

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

I’m sure all of us have been hurt by another person or animal at some point in our lives.  Some of you may have been hurt many times, you may have thought to yourself (maybe consciously, but maybe unconsciously): ” I will never give my heart to anyone again!  I will keep everyone at arm’s length so that I won’t get hurt ever again. ”  Seems logical, doesn’t it? If you don’t let anyone in your heart, you won’t get hurt by anyone either.  Unfortunately, as C.S Lewis says in this quote (my paraphrase), you will not only be immune to getting hurt, you will also be eventually immune to getting the love and care you need.

Here’s why it’s important not to completely close yourself off to others:

  1. When you open yourself to others and are vulnerable, people will more likely accept and respect the true you.–Especially nowadays, when there are many fakes and wannabes, being authentic is a breath of fresh air to most people.  Being open to not only your triumphs and accomplishments but also your failure makes you more believable–and dare I say, more human. Also, if you are open and honest with yourself, people are more likely to respect your boldness and genuineness.
  2. Connected to the first point, when you are willing to be vulnerable with others, it gives others a chance to open up too.–I used to be so afraid of being “found out” and rejected, that I hid parts of myself. When I began to open up to others (Yes, I understand we shouldn’t tell your life story to strangers or to people you don’t trust or know well, but we should be able to trust at least one other person!), sometimes other people will also open up to you and you will find the comforting feeling that you are not alone in your struggles or experiences.  It is a feeling of solidarity to be able to say to another, “Me too!”
  3. When you open yourself up to others, it allows you and the other person or persons to learn from one another.–When we open up about our experiences and struggles, we are able to better understand others.  For instance, if you relate to a good friend that you struggle with X problem, you may learn that your friend struggles with the same problem, or struggled before and has already overcome it, in which case, you can learn how to overcome your problem better from your friend.  If you don’t share anything at all, you also don’t learn anything from anyone. When we stop learning, I found that life loses meaning and purpose. Don’t fall into that trap.
  4. When you open up yourself to others, you are allowing yourself to receive love and help from others.–Yes, opening yourself up does require some humility, but it is worth it.  For instance, there are people at my job that I initially had some problems with, but when I humbled myself and tried to open up to them and  learn more about them in genuine love and care for them, I found that these people actually were more willing to help me understand them better and developed a good measure of care for me in return. This does not always happen with everyone, of course, but we all can learn at least one thing from another person, even if we don’t like or get along with them.  Also, when you open up yourself to someone, he or she can understand and relate to you better than if you keep everything bottled up inside and secret.
  5. When you close yourself to others, your heart will become callous and uncaring.–I have seen and heard about people who have put up so many barriers to others, that they became hateful towards others and despondent and callous.  Some of them no longer care about the needs of others because they have become so focused on hiding everything, that they forget about everything else. People who harbor deep prejudices often are near or at this point. They have so much anger and hatred inside and have barriers so high, that they no longer care about anything or anyone other than themselves.  This is a very sad state to be in, indeed.

Objections to being vulnerable–answered:

  1. If I become vulnerable, someone will hurt or take advantage of me.–Yes, this can and does happen, but we must not let our fears dictate our lives. The alternative to not being vulnerable and not getting hurt is often worse than the hurt one can try so hard to avoid in the first place. Instead of taking the risk of having someone hurt us, we become hard and calloused and so hurt ourselves worse than the hurts we are fearing. Also, suffering and hurt is a fact of life on this side of the dirt.  I know. I hate it too, but the suffering you experience from another person is often (or at least can be) temporary. The price of being “irredeemable” and “dark,”  as C.S Lewis mentions, is not worth the price of avoiding hurt and pain from another person.
  2. Being vulnerable is only for the weak--So. not. true.  Being vulnerable and being willing to risk one’s reputation for the sake of authenticity and openness takes quite the emotional energy to do.  It takes a lot of strength. For instance, when someone is willing to risk their friendships by admitting a struggle or a personality defect, he or she is not only being strong but courageous in the face of possible fire, so to speak, as well. Being prideful and appearing perfect when you’re not is actually more of a sign of weakness than being vulnerable.
  3. If I am willing to be vulnerable, especially with my problems, my reputation will be ruined.–Well, it could be, but let me ask you this? Would you rather go through life being “liked” for a fake version of you, and thus no one knows or likes the real you, or would you rather be hated but feel free to be who you really are?  I would prefer the latter myself because I don’t do fake.  Also, most likely your reputation may only be slightly ruined–by those people who now see you in a negative light, but who were never really confidants in the first place–, but enhanced by those who will be your true blue friends and who will really love and care for you unconditionally. I think the latter group is the best kind of friends anyway.

So, to be loved is to be vulnerable. It may be very scary for some (or many) people, but love is always worth it.  I have been so much with so many people and thus have learned a lot from them about love. What I have learned from most everyone is that truly loving them requires some measure of vulnerability. May we all be fearless and free to be who we were meant to be, with no barriers to love.

The Beauty of Imperfection

I admit it. I am a perfectionist. I want everything to be right, and everything to be in its right place. So, yesterday when a manager told me that I had done my job wrong, I felt really bad about myself. Granted, it wasn’t that manager’s fault, and they were really nice about it, but it was that I was so focused on making everything just right, I had almost missed learning from my mistakes and looking at the positive aspects of being human.  Yes, I believe there is a time for utopia, but not in this life! Yes, I believe we should always try our best, and strive for excellence. However, even so, we will make mistakes! I believe there is still beauty in that. Here’s why:

1.) Mistakes give us motivation to constantly learn about things and improve ourselves.–This is why we go to school and/or strive to have jobs.  This is also why even if we aren’t in school or have a job, we can still learn things by reading books and communicating with others. If we were already perfect, we wouldn’t need to learn anything!  Also, if we already knew everything, why should we want to learn anything more or grow?  However, since we do make mistakes constantly, we can have the motivation we need to do better because it is human nature to want to correct that which isn’t right in our lives, whether morally or pragmatically. For instance, if I made a mistake in straightening items at work, which I sometimes do, I could make sure the items are straightened in the right places next time and really neater than before.  If I never made any mistakes, I wouldn’t have much motivation to improve at my job.  I would probably just do my job mechanically, like a machine, and wouldn’t find much joy in that.  Morally, if I sinned (i.e. made a moral mistake) by slandering someone I don’t like (just an example, I rarely if ever do this to people), and this person found out, got really upset, and severed ties with me, this would give me the motivation and the wake-up call I need to be kinder in the way I approach people and in what I say to and about others.

2.)Making mistakes give us a glimpse of God’s and other people’s grace and mercy towards us.–When we make an honest mistake, we are usually met with some grace and mercy. For instance, when I had done my job badly yesterday, although I was really harsh and unforgiving towards myself, the manager that confronted me treated me with patience, grace, and compassion.  If I had never made the mistakes I did at my job yesterday, I would never have seen my manager’s grace and patience towards me. Also, when I sin against people and against God, as long as I admit that I made a mistake, am willing to own up to it, and make the proper amends, God and people are 95% of the time very gracious and forgiving towards me.  If I never sinned and if I was perfect in every way, never making a single mistake, I would probably never see either God’s or other people’s mercy extended towards me for my wrongdoings.  In seeing grace and/or mercy extended towards ourselves, we are probably more likely to extend it towards others as well.  We can thus relate better to our fellow humans better.

3.) Mistakes teach us how to humble ourselves.–When we make a mistake, we have basically two choices when we are confronted with them by someone else. a.) Be defensive, deny wrongdoing, and/or make excuses for our mistakes. OR b.) admit our mistakes and correct and better them the next time.  I hope I choose b) more often than not, because admitting and learning from our mistakes, is the pathway to humility. Humility is very important for many reasons I won’t get deep into right now since I already had discussed that in a previous post. However, one reason humility is important is that it teaches you to be genuine–to be who you really are inside, warts and all.  Mistakes confront you with the choice to be genuine by exposing a part of you that makes you human–being flawed!  You can try to hide it (be fake) or be open and honest about it (being genuine).  I believe mistakes–moral and otherwise–are tools that are used in your lives to teach us not to be too arrogant or closed-minded towards people or things.

This is why mistakes can be very beneficial in our lives. Since I am a perfectionist, in this post, I am also writing to myself, as much as I am to you, the readers.  Mistakes, besides being a part of learning, also helps us experience mercy and grace, and teaches us how to humble ourselves. So, don’t worry if you make an honest mistake. Just try to learn from it, and do better next time. You may find that is the beauty of imperfection!

What have mistakes taught you?  Please feel free to comment.