My childhood had some rough patches. One of the worst was bullying. Then came forgiveness.
Growing up in a rural part of the south, where everyone knows everyone, I found it very hard to fit in at school. Just as peer pressures and cliques began to rise, I was the girl that wasn't into sports or cheerleading, and struggled academically. Making matters worse, I started getting bullied. My middle-school tormentors told me:
- You're fat.
- You're stupid.
- You'll never amount to anything.
- No one will ever love you.
I could go on, but the point is--it hurt me, and hurt me a lot, and the bitter, painful feelings stuck with me for a long time.
While it's difficult talking about it even today, something wonderful happened that really turned the tide in my heart. I shared my story with a youth pastor, and he suggested something I'll never forget:
"Try forgiving them."
I was floored.
The real question for me was: 'Why should forgiveness be granted?' They're the ones who started it. They're the ones who were to blame, right? I was simply defending myself, but I knew in my heart that my bitterness was making me desire only revenge. My thoughts toward vendetta and payback weren't curing the issues, they were creating new ones.
The pastor taught me that forgiving was NOT simply forgetting or condoning. Hear me loud and clear: Forgiveness never excuses helpful consequences! Kids shouldn't get away with bullying and bullying should always be addressed and stopped.
SO many things happen to us in our youth (or as adults) that life fails to bring appropriate consequences for. At least 1 in 4 women experience sexual abuse. Anything immoral or hurtful that anyone does to us is never okay. Actions sometimes require someone to go to jail or to be removed from our lives altogether. Discipline, punishment, justice and consequence exist in our society for good, necessary reasons, as also does our need for forgiveness.
Considering forgiveness affords us the choice to either wallow in what was done wrong, or to release their wrongs from occupying our heart and headspace. When we forgive, we set ourselves free to live again to the fullest.
Forgiveness brings healing. For example, John-Hopkins Medical Center has reported that those who forgive have better overall health, including lowered risks of heart disease, depression, and a slew of common illnesses. Forgiveness is one of the most significant forms of self-care you can give yourself!
A grudge may not be something tangible we can see with our eyes, but to the human body, it weighs heavily on us. When we don't forgive, we allow unnecessary stress and grief to cause ongoing damage to our mental and physical health.
Don't let the burdens of unforgiveness weigh you down. I forgave the bullies, and it freed my soul. Know that you are worthy of healing and deserve freedom from any chains of unforgiveness that bind your heart. Experience the joy of forgiving!